Worker Correspondents: Gas Leak, Diesel Spill, Machinery Breakage at Amazon Facility Harm Workers

By Blake Garrison

This week, workers at the PIT5 Amazon distribution center in Crafton, Pennsylvania endured a series of exhausting and hazardous incidents that management referred to as a “processing crisis.” Equipment broke down and hazardous material spills resulted in three evacuations of the building in one day, with workers suffering the harmful effects of exposure.

On Sunday, parts of the main conveyor belt broke down, bringing processing to a halt. Management immediately sent workers on their break, even though some were only 15 to 20 minutes into the start of a five-hour shift. The single technician available could not fix it, and stated that the belt was stretched out because regular maintenance had not been done. The PIT5 facility was designed to process a volume of only around 65,000 packages a day, but now processes over double that amount.

The belt remained broken for nearly ten hours, during which time workers were made to haul heavy boxes normally carried by belts, at an increased pace. One worker who was assigned to disassemble pallets of boxes stacked higher than her head had a box fall on top of her.

The following day at 5 a.m., workers had to evacuate the building after a diesel spill, the second instance of this in two months.

Workers were evacuated again at 8 a.m. when gas, some report Freon, was smelled seeping into the building from the roof. They were soon sent back to work, even though the leak had not been fixed. “I’m pissed,” said a worker in the vicinity. “I’ve got a headache from the gas. I’m ready to just leave. They’re giving us this tiny pay increase so we don’t get pissed off by things like this, but I’m fucking pissed.”

A flyer promoting a minor pay increase documented inside an Amazon facility.

Many workers reported feeling dizzy and experiencing headaches from exposure to the gas. At 10:34 a.m., the building was evacuated once more. This time, workers were sent to wait nearly two and a half hours in the parking lot while the fire department and a hazardous materials team investigated. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they called this [the evacuation] our break,” joked a worker. “’You didn’t die, now get back to work.'” Several workers got sunburned from having to sit outside with no cover from the sun.

After workers were sent back into the building they continued to smell gas and experience headaches when working near the leak site. “I have asthma,” said one worker. “When I smelled the gas I just kept my mask tight to my face. At least I wasn’t working near it, but when I went to the bathroom, it hit me and I came back with a headache.”

There were other small equipment failures in the facility on Tuesday and Wednesday. “It’s unbelievable how they treat us,” said one worker, “This needs to be on the news.”

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