In a Leaked Pamphlet, Amazon Refers to Its Warehouse Workers as “Industrial Athletes”

Wondering why the shopping giant reports so many work-related injuries?

The, Inc. BHM1 fulfillment center is seen before sunrise on March 29, 2021 in Bessemer, Alabama
The, Inc. BHM1 fulfillment center is seen before sunrise on March 29, 2021 in Bessemer, Alabama
PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

We have a love/hate relationship with Amazon as a company, and it seems to fluctuate daily: Progressive with its (lack of) drug testing. Intrusive with your data. Dystopian with its zen closets.

Today, we’re going with the face palm emoji, due to the recent discovery by Motherboard of a worker’s pamphlet put out by the company that calls warehouse workers “industrial athletes” and discusses how these workers need to train to walk “up to 13 miles a day” or lift “a total of 20,000 pounds” during a shift.  

The pamphlet originates from a Tulsa warehouse circa 2020 where Amazon’s “Working Well” program was being tested out. Officially launched this May, Working Well is touted as an employee-designed health and safety program. Amazon itself admits that “about 40 percent of work-related injuries at Amazon are musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) which include sprains or strains caused by repetitive motions” but claims that company initiatives even before the WW program reduced MSD-related injuries by 32 percent from 2019 to 2020.

We’re all for improved safety standards. But the pamphlet seems to open the company up to greater scrutiny of its treatment of warehouse workers. It features sections on nutrition, hydration, sleep, footwear, ergonomic work behavior and injury prevention specialists. It mentions that warehouse workers may burn up to 400 calories per hour. And it asks employees to monitor their urine color, which is rich considering that Amazon workers have complained about being unable to take bathroom breaks and having to pee in bottles. It recommends injury prevention specialists who are athletic trainers — again, this is for a warehouse job.

Amazon claims the pamphlet was “created in error” and no longer in circulation. However, that doesn’t address the real problems that Amazon workers are facing; one report attributed 24,000 severe injuries to the shopping giant in 2020. The rapid pace of the job, the physical exertion required and the overlong “megacycle” overnight shifts need to be addressed before zen booths, gamify-ing work and training (like an athlete!) programs are put in place.

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