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Amazon defends warehouse safety after 'hundreds of staff injured'

Embargoed to 2359 Wednesday November 15 Parcels are processed and prepared for dispatch at Amazon's Fulfilment Centre at Kingston Park in Peterborough as the online retailer prepares for Black Friday.
Amazon hit back after a union attacked its safety record. (PA)

Amazon (AMZN) has defended its safety record after more than 600 reported injuries or near-misses at its UK warehouses in the past three years.

Analysis of official data by the GMB union suggests the retail giant reported 240 serious injuries to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) watchdog in 2018-19.

A further 230 incidents were reported in 2017-18 and 152 the previous year, according to the GMB, which submitted freedom of information requests to UK local authorities.

Only the most serious incidents have to be reported to the safety regulator. Firms have a duty to report when incidents leave workers away from or unable to work for more than seven days running. Fractures, crushing and amputation also have to be reported.

Read more: Amazon warehouses face Black Friday protests

The GMB said incidents included a Manchester worker who suffered head injuries and an intervertebral disc prolapse after boxes fell on them. A Leicestershire worker is said to have suffered internal bruising after being knocked down and wedged under a heavy goods vehicle (HGV).

But an Amazon spokesperson said official figures showed it had more than 40% fewer incidents than similar transport and warehousing businesses. Its warehouse and workforce numbers have also expanded over the period the number of reported injuries has risen.

He said its 17 fulfilment centres were open to visitors who wished to see its “modern, innovative and, most importantly, safe environment.”

But Mick Rix, national officer at the GMB, claimed conditions were “hellish,” calling for a parliamentary inquiry and meetings between the union and the company. A previous GMB investigation also claimed more than 600 ambulances had been called out to warehouses in three years.

Read more: UK ‘deterring skilled workers’ as government plans immigration shakeup

Rachel Reeves, a Labour MP and chair of the Commons business select committee, said she wanted to hear from Amazon’s workers and management about “what is going on” in their warehouses.

“Profit must never come before the safety of consumers & employees,” she wrote on Twitter.

But Amazon’s spokesperson said: “Amazon is a safe place to work. Yet again, our critics seem determined to paint a false picture of what it’s like to work for Amazon. They repeat the same sensationalised allegations time and time again.”

It comes a day after the company’s founder announced he would spend $10bn (£7.7bn) of his personal fortune on finding new ways to tackle climate change.

Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, announced the launch of the Bezos Earth Fund on his Instagram account. The company has also said it plans to use fully renewable energy by 2030.