Amazon denies union claims Rugeley warehouse 'one of most dangerous places'

Amazon’s mammoth Rugeley Warehouse has been branded one of the most dangerous places to work in Britain.

The GMB union has slammed the safety at the fulfilment centre after figures revealed ambulances were called out to the site 115 times in just three years.

A UK-wide investigation by the union found ambulances made 600 visits in total to 14 Amazon warehouses in the country from 2015 to 2017. In more than half of cases, patients were taken to hospital.

The union, which accuses Amazon of treating staff like robots, also claims 87 per cent of the 200 union members working for the American firm who had responded to a survey said they suffered pain as a result of their workload.

But the company has refuted any suggestion that it has unsafe working conditions.

A spokesman said: “Requests for ambulance services at our fulfilment centres are predominantly associated with personal health events and are not work related. Nevertheless, ambulance visits at our UK FCs last year was 0.00001 per worked hour, which is dramatically low. Amazon has 43 per cent fewer injuries on average than other companies conducting transportation and warehousing activities in the UK.

“We encourage anyone to come take a tour of our fulfilment centres so they can see for themselves.”

The 115 calls to Amazon’s 750,000 sq ft Rugeley site, which has 1,800 full time workers, included three relating to pregnancy or maternity problems and three for major trauma. There were also two call-outs for electric shocks and eight for people who had fallen unconscious. There were 49 calls in 2015, 38 in 2016 and 28 last year.

That compares to only eight calls in the same period to a Tesco distribution warehouse at Fradley Park, near Lichfield, of a similar size and where about 1,300 people work, according to another FOI request by the union.

The findings will be presented to the GMB’s 101st annual congress, which takes place in Brighton from Monday to Wednesday. Mick Rix, GMB National Officer, said: “We really hoped Amazon had learnt its lesson from the report we published in 2014. Sadly that does not appear to be the case.

“Hundreds of ambulance call outs, pregnant women telling us they are forced to stand for 10 hours a day, pick, stow, stretch and bend, pull heavy carts and walk miles – even miscarriages and pregnancy issues at work.

“I’ve never seen figures like this – Amazon Rugeley must be one of the most dangerous places to work in Britain. Amazon should be absolutely ashamed of themselves.”

Mr Rix added: “Companies like Amazon should be treating staff with respect, not treating them like robots.”

Amazon said: “While any serious incident is one too many, we learn and improve our programmes to work to prevent future incidents. We are proud of our safety record and thousands of Amazonians work hard every day innovating ways to make it even better.

“We have not been provided with confirmation that the people who completed the survey worked at Amazon and we don’t recognize these allegations as an accurate portrayal of activities in our buildings.”

It added the health and safety of staff was an absolute top priority.

A spokesman said: “Amazon has a range of initiatives to support our people if they become ill at home or at work and we recently extended these to include improved on-site support.”

The Rugeley centre was the first Amazon building in the UK to open its doors to public tours and since 2015 more than 6,000 people have visited the site

It currently has 16 fulfilment centres in the UK and is currently searching for another site for a multi-level fulfilment centre in the West Midlands. It needs a building of up to four storeys in height and 2.2 million sq ft in size.

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