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Stuart: OSHA Amazon investigation leaves unanswered questions

State Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, on Thursday issued a response to a Hazard Alert Letter issued this week by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration regarding the Dec. 10 tornado that led to the collapse of an Amazon facility in Edwardsville, killing six and injuring others.

The letter, issued April 26, found that Amazon had not violated the Occupational Safety and Health Act and that OSHA would therefore only recommend that Amazon take voluntary steps to improve safety at its facilities.

“While I commend OSHA for its swift and efficient investigation into this incident, there’s more work to do because basic questions remain unanswered,” said Stuart. “Today, I am reaffirming my commitment to getting those answers. I continue to support everyone impacted by this tragedy.”

In its letter, OSHA described three main workplace conditions which it identified as “risk factors.”

First, the megaphone which, according to the facility’s Emergency Action Plan (EAP), was to be used to activate shelter-in-place procedures was locked in a cage and not accessible.

Second, some employees at the facility did not know the location of the facility’s designated shelter area, and they did not recall ever having conducted a severe weather safety drill. Managers verbally directed employees to take shelter in the facility’s restroom, but only one of two restrooms in the facility was designed to act as a shelter and some workers, unaware of this, instead tried to shelter in the other, unprotected, restroom.

Finally, the emergency plan was not customized for the Edwardsville facility, containing, for example, instructions for what to do in the event of a hurricane. The plan also did not specifically state the location of the designated shelter area.

“No family should have to wonder if their loved one will return from work unharmed, and employers owe each and every one of their workers a non-negotiable duty of care,” said Stuart. “I call upon Governor Pritzker and my colleagues in the Legislature to join me in taking concrete steps to better protect not only those who work in facilities like Amazon’s in Edwardsville, but all Illinois workers.”

Stuart invites constituents to contact her on the issue at (618) 365-6650, or kara.repstuart@gmail.com.

Illinois House Democratic Caucus file photo.

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