'Lack of respect': protests over Amazon employee deaths on warehouse floor

Work was carried on as normal at the facility as workers were not notified of the death of a co-worker even when the body was lying on the floor

On the morning of December 27, 2022 at the Amazon DEN4 warehouse in Colorado Springs, Colorado, 61-year-old Rick Jacobs died on the job after having a heart attack, just before a shift change. What happened next angered his former partner.

Witnesses said a makeshift barrier around the worker who died using a large cardboard bin was used to block off the area at the exit shipping dock where the incident occurred, and workers criticized the response and lack of transparency about the incident. Amazon denied boxes were used to seal off the area, but said managers stood around to make sure no one came near for privacy and security.

When the workers arrived for their afternoon shift, they said they had not been informed of what was going on and continued to work as normal while a colleague who had died remained at the facility and emergency responders awaited the arrival of the coroner.

“Finding out what happened after walking in there made me feel very uncomfortable, because there is such a blatant disregard for human emotion in this facility. Management could have released the employees who were hit by the [voluntary leave] offer, so they didn't have to use their own time, but no, that's not happening,” said an Amazon employee in a warehouse working the day shift. They asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal.

“No one should be made to work next to a dead body, especially after witnessing it. Shift day kicks in at 7am or 7.30am, and we were never notified until we got to where it was happening. No warning before entering the building. There is no counselor on site. Simply a flyer was issued a few days later telling us about how to receive mental health counseling.

In a phone call, an Amazon spokesperson said the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and privacy concerns for families of the deceased mean the company cannot disclose details about the individual or the incident. They disputed claims that anyone was working near the bodies or that boxes were used to seal off the area. They declined to comment on the note citing privacy and respect for the deceased.

Amazon did not follow up with comment regarding what protocols, if any, the company had for this incident or what resources were provided to workers immediately after the event or afterward.

Other workers at the Amazon warehouse said that when they arrived for work that morning there were police and fire trucks in the warehouse, but there was no explanation as to why. Later, he learned from a colleague that a worker had died during the previous shift.

"I was immediately upset because we were all doing business as usual and there was a human lying dead in the outbound area and I had to hear about it in the break room," said the worker who also asked not to be named out of fear. retribution. “Why are we still working as usual when someone dies downstairs? I was angry because they thought our lives didn't matter, that they would get rid of me to get the package out.

Workers criticized the lack of transparency and responsiveness from management, as they were not given any information until a week after the incident, and the lack of standard operating procedures for incidents like this, given that other worker deaths have occurred in Amazon warehouses before. .

A week after the incident, the worker said management finally brought it up at a standup meeting on Jan. 4. They left feeling dissatisfied with the explanation and lack of responsibility taken from management.

“That makes me less appreciate human life. We are closed for maintenance. Do you think we couldn't have a little respect and shut ourselves out long enough to at least get the bodies out of the facility and clean them up before people walk around like nothing happened? said the worker.

“This is not the first death at an Amazon facility. Amazon is a big company. There must be a protocol. It doesn't matter if it's the first death or the 10th death. There has to be a protocol for how you handle it. Maybe while the investigation was underway, you didn't let the day change, you put it off until at least until the bodies were gone.

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