Some two dozen employees at an Amazon fulfillment center in New Jersey were hospitalized Wednesday when a can of bear repellent fell off a shelf and discharged. More than 50 employees were sickened, authorities say.
Workers complained of difficulty breathing, as well as a burning sensation in their eyes and throat after the incident. At least one of the hospitalized workers had to be intubated and was admitted to the intensive care unit at a local hospital.
Bear repellent is a high-intensity form of pepper spray that wildlife officials say is very effective at warding off attacking bears and other wildlife. Amazon, which is experiencing a busy 2018 holiday season thanks (in part) to its free shipping offer, actually sells several varieties of bear repellent on its site. It’s not clear which one was at the center of the incident. Prices start at just under $22.
The first 911 call for the discharge came at 8:50 a.m. ET. The scene was cleared and employees had returned to work by approximately 10:30am. Amazon, in a statement to NBC New York, confirmed a “damaged aerosol can” had released the fumes.
Robbinsville Fire Dept on scene at Amazon Warehouse on New Canton Way investigating “fumes” that have several employees complaining of illness. Fire Dept is attempting to isolate the source. EMTs are triaging multiple patients. 7 ambulances and a medic currently assigned— Robbinsville Fire (@IAFFLocal3786) December 5, 2018
“The safety of our employees is our top priority, and as such, all employees in that area have been relocated to safe place and employees experiencing symptoms are being treated onsite,” Amazon said. “As a precaution, some employees have been transported to local hospitals for evaluation and treatment. We appreciate the swift response of our local responders.”
The incident comes just over a month after a wall collapsed at an Amazon distribution center in Baltimore, killing two people.