Amazon said the tornado struck the site "incredibly fast" © Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images
Amazon said the tornado struck the site "incredibly fast" © Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

Probe launched into Amazon warehouse collapse after six die

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
14 December 2021

An investigation has been launched into the collapse of an Amazon warehouse in the US after six workers died during a tornado.

Amazon has been criticised for its health and safety policies following the disaster, which severely damaged the 1.1m sq ft site in Edwardsville, Illinois.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) said it was “inexcusable” that workers were required to work through a tornado, one of a number to hit the US on Friday night (10 December). Almost 100 deaths have been reported following tornadoes across six states.

Amazon workers in Edwardsville said they were told to shelter in bathrooms when warnings were given around 20 minutes before the tornado struck.

Amazon said most workers took shelter in “the primary designated location” but “there was a small group who took shelter in a part of the building that was then directly impacted by the tornado and this is where most of the tragic loss of life occurred”.

Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson, said: “We’re deeply saddened by the news that members of our Amazon family passed away as a result of the storm in Edwardsville, IL. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their loved ones, and everyone impacted by the tornado. We also want to thank all the first responders for their ongoing efforts on scene. We’re continuing to provide support to our employees and partners in the area.”

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the RWDSU, said: “Time and time again Amazon puts its bottom line above the lives of its employees. Requiring workers to work through such a major tornado warning event as this was inexcusable.

“This is another outrageous example of the company putting profits over the health and safety of their workers, and we cannot stand for this.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), part of the Department of Labor (DOL), will conduct an investigation.

“OSHA has six months to complete its investigation, issue citations and propose monetary penalties if violations of workplace safety and or health regulations are found,” said a DOL spokesperson.

Amazon said it was donating $1m to the Edwardsville Community Foundation.

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