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OSHA calls on Amazon to improve severe weather emergency procedures after warehouse collapse

Updated: Apr. 26, 2022 at 3:00 PM CDT
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EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (KMOV) – Federal investigators have told Amazon they need to do more to protect employees after the Edwardsville tornado disaster.

Tuesday, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Fairview Heights Area Office announced Amazon’s severe weather emergency procedures met minimal federal safety guidelines for storm sheltering. The organization is calling on Amazon to make improvements to protect workers and contract drivers in future emergencies.

“These tragic deaths have sparked discussions nationwide on the vital need for comprehensive workplace emergency plans,” said OSHA’s Regional Administrator William Donovan, in Chicago. “Employers should re-evaluate their emergency plans for the safest shelter-in-place locations and prepare before an emergency to ensure workers know where to go and how to keep themselves safe in the event of a disaster.”

“We are calling on Amazon to be an industry leader for workplace safety,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, Doug Parker. “Six workers died in this event, it was a tragic event that in and that of itself should be a wake-up call for employers.”

OSHA’s Hazard Alert Letter recommends the following areas for improvement:

  • Ensure that all employees are provided training and participate in emergency weather drills.
  • Include site-specific information in severe weather ergency plans.
  • All audible warning devices and locations of the device should be clearly identified in the severe weather emergency plan and readily accessible.

Six people were fatally injured, and another was severed injured when a tornado struck the Edwardsville warehouse on Dec. 10.

“There are many things in life we’re not required to do, but we do because we know its important, there’s no requirement that you must change a tire when the certain tread gets down, but maybe its safest for people on the road when you come to a stop. A company of this sort has the resources both financially, and from an intelligence standpoint, to know what is required in certain areas and how can you best protect workers,” said attorney Jack Casciato, who is representing the family of Austin McKwen, one of the six victims who died.

Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel gave the following statement to News 4 regarding OSHA’s investigation:

“The storm in Edwardsville last fall was a tragedy and our teams on the ground continue to support our employees and the broader community as they work to recover. The tornado that hit our delivery station was extreme and very sudden, with winds that were much like the force of a category 4 hurricane, and we believe our team did the right thing, moving people to shelter as soon as the warning was issued. Our buildings—including the Edwardsville delivery station—have emergency plans that identify exit routes and shelter areas. Employees receive emergency response training, and that training is reinforced throughout the year. OSHA’s investigation did not find any violations or causes for citations, but we’re constantly looking to innovate and improve our safety measures and have already begun conducting additional safety and emergency preparedness drills at our sites and will carefully consider any OSHA recommendation that we have not already.”

OSHA Amazon Hazard letter

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U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Fairview Heights Area Office 11 Executive Drive, Suite 11 Fairview Heights, IL 62208


April 26, 2022


Amazon.com Services LLC Attn: Mr. Mical Davis

5106 IL-111

Pontoon Beach, IL 62040 Re: Inspection No. 1568095 Dear Mr. Davis:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Fairview Heights Area Office conducted an inspection and evaluation of your facility located at 3077 Gateway Commerce Center Dr. S, Edwardsville, IL. 62025. The inspection was initiated on December 11, 2021, in response to media reports which indicated the building received a direct hit from a Category 3 tornado and multiple workers were missing. The inspection included management and private employee interviews, a review of relevant documents associated with the site’s Emergency Action Plan (EAP), contractor safety and training records. The inspection disclosed three items which raised concerns about the potential risk to employees during severe weather emergencies.


On or about December 10, 2021, after a tornado struck the Amazon DLI4 facility in Edwardsville, IL, six delivery service provider (DSP) employees were fatally injured, along with one DSP employee who was critically wounded. Three other DSP employees sustained minor injuries. The following workplace conditions have been identified as risk factors:


1. The megaphone, identified by the Emergency Action Plan (EAP) to be used to activate the shelter-in-place procedure, was locked in a cage and not accessible. Per the EAP, managers were to “[a]ctivate the audible warning method to alert personnel about the site emergency.” Management adapted to the situation by verbally communicating warnings to personnel, instructing them to take shelter in the restroom.


2. Based on interviews with Amazon and DSP personnel, some employees did not recall the location of the DLI4 designated severe weather shelter-in-place. The personnel did not recall ever participating in any severe weather or shelter-in place drills. Amazon managers began directing employees to go to the restroom in response to local weather alerts and tornado warnings approximately 10 minutes prior to the tornado’s touch down. Some employees were unaware the designated tornado shelter was the restroom located in the northern portion of the building and instead took shelter in the restroom located in the southern portion of the building.

3. Amazon’s written EAP contained a section which addressed severe weather emergencies. The plan was not customized with specific instructions associated with the anticipated hazards expected for this facility and it contained elements that would not be encountered in Edwardsville, IL, such as a hurricane. The plan did not specifically identify the location of the designated shelter area for the facility. Amazon had posted facility evacuation maps which indicated the location of the designated tornado shelter.


Section 5(a)(1), the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, requires each employer to furnish employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees. Since no OSHA standard applies and it is not considered appropriate at this time to invoke Section 5(a)(1), I recommend that you voluntarily take the necessary steps to eliminate or materially reduce your employees’ exposure to the risk factors described above. Feasible methods of control may include, but are not limited to, the following:


1. All audible warning devices, as well as the location of the device(s), should be clearly identified within the severe weather emergency plan and readily accessible.


2. Ensure that all employees who work throughout the facility including, vendors, and contracted personnel are provided training and participate in drills associated with the layout of the facility, warning and alert methods, and severe weather shelter locations.


3. Site severe weather emergency plans should contain site specific information. When addressing severe weather emergency plan guidance, hazards beyond conditions involving a fire, any applicable exit route, exit door, shelter-in-place, or any other emergency plan guidance, should be identified within the written emergency plan.


OSHA welcomes any report of your efforts to reduce the above-mentioned exposures. If you have any questions concerning this matter, please feel free to contact this office.


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Sincerely,


Aaron Priddy Area Director


Digitally signed by AARON PRIDDY Date: 2022.04.26

08:42:09 -05'00'


cc: Jeffrey B. Youmans, Esq.

Heather MacDougal, Vice President of Workplace Health & Safety