Federal regulators from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are investigating an incident at a New Jersey Amazon warehouse that left dozens of employees in need of medical treatment after being exposed to bear spray.
According to officials, the incident took place on Wednesday December 5, 2018 at an Amazon fulfillment center in Robbinsville Township. Investigators have reported that an automated machine punctured a 9-ounce aerosol can of bear repellant, causing it to dispense concentrated capsaicin, the active ingredient in pepper spray, in a confined area on the third floor of the sprawling 1.3 million-square-foot facility.
As a result of the incident, over 50 workers were treated at the scene for burning in the eyes and throat and breathing difficulties after being exposed to the bear spray. At least two dozen workers were transported to local hospitals for further treatment, and at least one employee was listed in critical condition. The affected area of the fulfillment center was cleared and re-opened Wednesday evening.
Pending Investigation Focuses on Workplace Safety
OSHA officials state their investigation may take up to six months to complete, and will focus on what led to the puncture and release of the harmful fumes, as well as whether it could have been prevented. Amazon has also announced an independent investigation of its own.
Although Amazon workers themselves are non-union, some union organizations – including the Retail, wholesale and Department Store Union – have released statements regarding the dangers automated robots like those used at Amazon pose to human workers, and the need to hold companies accountable for dangerous labor practices. Some advocates also have concerns about safety issues during times of increased production and workload, such as the holiday season.
Since December 2013, OSHA has issued Amazon citations for 12 violations at its New Jersey facilities, including the fulfillment center in Mercer County, for issues ranging from forklift safety complaints to failures to provide fall-arrest systems and fall protection. At least three violations were contested and overturned, but fines still amounted to at least $23,000. The Robbinsville warehouse was most recently cited and fined $7,000 for a recording criteria violation in 2015.
Injured on the Job? Levinson Axelrod, P.A. Can Help!
If you or someone you love has been injured in the incident at the Robbinsville fulfillment center or any other Amazon facility in New Jersey, you can learn more about your rights and options from the proven legal team at Levinson Axelrod, P.A. Our firm has been fighting for injured victims and workers in personal injury and workers’ compensation cases across the state since 1939, including accidents involving occupational exposure to dangerous substances. In that time, we’ve recovered over a billion dollars in compensation for our clients, with over $350 million recovered in the last 5 years alone.
During a free case evaluation, we can discuss your potential case and injuries, whether you may be entitled to a financial recovery and / or benefits through workers’ comp or a personal injury lawsuit, and what our award-winning lawyers can do to guide you through the process. Levinson Axelrod, P.A. proudly serves clients in all 21 New Jersey counties from multiple office locations. Call (732) 440-3089 or contact us online today.