Amazon workers in San Bernardino battle 'scorching warehouse temperatures'

Amazon warehouse employees "marched on managers" after weeks of extreme heat and poor safety protections at the San Bernardino KSBD air hub, according to the Inland Empire Amazon Workers United (IEAWU). Workers and members of the IEAWU filed this complaint with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), prompting an on-site inspection on Friday, July 28.

"I work outside with the planes and the only shade provided to us is under the airplane, or in vans where there’s not enough seating and the A/C is sometimes turned off," said Cynthia Ayala, an Amazon warehouse worker and member of the IEAWU. "Managers are prioritizing production over our safety."

Temperatures in the area reached a peak of 106°F last week, with daily temperatures lingering at well over 100°F.  Workers stationed at the San Bernardino warehouse said they are regularly exposed to these soaring temperatures while working outside on the tarmac, in direct sun.

And workers say conditions indoors aren't any better. Inside the warehouse, employees deal with poor air circulation and strenuous physical workloads, according to accounts.

When Daniel Rivera, an Amazon warehouse worker and member of the IEAWU, suffered a nosebleed on the job, he said his supervisors and on-site first aid team dismissed him.

"Workers inside are so easily forgotten during this heat," said Rivera. "Amazon’s main focus is production. Safety is not the priority until it’s too late."

When reached for comment, Amazon's spokesperson, Maureen Lynch Vogel, shared the following statement:

"Our heat-related safety protocols are robust and often exceed industry standards and federal OSHA guidance. Amazon is one of only a few companies in the industry to have installed climate control systems in our fulfillment centers and at every air hub, including KSBD. Our climate control and building management systems measure indoor temperatures and heat index, and our safety professionals monitor these systems so they can take extra steps if needed. Aside from these state-of-the-art systems, our sites include high-volume, low-speed industrial fans to provide additional cooling and every employee is trained on the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness and the importance of hydration and regular breaks." 

Amazon added that the San Bernardino warehouse has not had any work-related illnesses reported from active loading areas this year, and that all employees are encouraged to not only take preventive cool-down rest breaks, but also speak up about any temperature-related issues.

IEAWU's complaint to Cal/OSHA demanded better protections for workers' safety, including shaded areas with outside seating, available cool drinking water, consistent heat break practices, and the right to take preventative cool-down breaks, according to reports. 

According to Amazon, such protective measures, and more, are already in place.

Tim Shadix, attorney and legal director of the Warehouse Worker Resource Center, said the employees' requests clearly comply with California law.

"Employers must also allow and encourage employees to take a preventative cool-down rest in the shade any time they feel the need to in order to protect themselves from overheating. Failing to follow these requirements properly places workers in grave danger of heat illness," said Shadix.

Amazon workers and IEAWU members demanded similar protections at the San Bernardino warehouse last summer. While some requests were approved, employees said there was little consistency in implementing them.

"Amazon has been promising us shade structures outside for months, but we still don't have them. When Cal/OSHA was here, managers staffed up crews to give us more heat breaks and kept the water coolers practically overflowing," said employee and IEAWU member Rex Evans.

Evans said this protocol lasted about 24 hours before returning to "business as usual."

"It shows Amazon can do better when they want to, and it's shameful that they don't," said Rex.