Occupational Safety & Health Reporter℠

Amazon Workers Hospitalized After Bear Spray Chemical Release (2)

Dec. 5, 2018, 7:50 PMUpdated: Dec. 5, 2018, 8:58 PM

An Amazon.com Inc. warehouse worker is in critical condition and more than 20 others are being treated at hospitals after equipment punctured a can of bear spray at a New Jersey fulfillment center Dec. 5.

John Nalbone, a spokesman for Robbinsville Township, N.J., told Bloomberg Law the puncture released the chemical capsaicin, an active ingredient in chili peppers. At least 54 workers were exposed, 24 of whom were transported to five local hospitals.

“The safety of our employees is our top priority, and as such, all employees in that area” have been relocated to a “safe place and employees experiencing symptoms are being treated onsite,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement to Bloomberg Law. “As a precaution, some employees have been transported to local hospitals for evaluation and treatment.”

The West Windsor Township Health Department investigated the area and determined a threat no longer exists, Nalbone said. He said Amazon has shut down part of the warehouse.

No Threat to Residents

“There was never any threat to residents outside the building,” Nalbone said.

The Robbinsville warehouse opened in 2013. The 1.3-million-square-foot facility employs about 1,500 workers, but thousands more are on hand to handle seasonal orders.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration representatives in Philadelphia for the regional office that oversees New Jersey employers couldn’t be reached for comment.

Records show OSHA has inspected the warehouse three times since 2014. It issued one violation for failing to keep accurate records of employee injuries and illnesses, for which Amazon paid a fine of $7,000.

(Updated to clarify OSHA officials contacted.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Sam Pearson in Washington at spearson@bloombergenvironment.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Simon Nadel at snadel@bloomberglaw.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bloomberglaw.com

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