New workers suffer injuries at a much higher rate than experienced ones. And it doesn’t get much newer than Amazon’s Delivery Service Partners program, which has contracted with 1,700 small businesses employing more than 100,000 workers globally since launching in the summer of 2018.
“A lot of these businesses are brand new. They start out with 20 trucks and then grow to 40 or 60. They are having those growing pains, just like any new startup,” said Randy Philabaum, a safety consultant with Pinnacol Assurance, the state’s largest provider of worker’s compensation insurance.
Demand for deliveries surged with the pandemic, and now Amazon DSP workers are racing to deliver the holiday crush of packages. That has triggered a rise in the number of falls, strains, dog bites and other injuries that those workers are suffering.
Normally, 41% of injury claims to Pinnacol involves workers in their first year on a job. For the delivery industry as a whole, it is around 58%. But with the contractors who deliver packages for Amazon, 93% of the injuries in Colorado are happening to workers in the first year.
Some of that reflects delivery firms that haven’t been around long enough to have a seasoned workforce. But Philabaum said Pinnacol’s research has found Amazon DSP workers are suffering slips and falls and dog bites in particular at a higher rate than other delivery workers.
Muscle strains are also an issue, and those reflect the pace of the workload and weight of packages.
“Feeling hurried and rushing is a hazard in any work environment but could be especially impactful among these workers who must complete many stops every shift. Employers should balance their expectations of employees working quickly with expectations that they work at a pace that is safe and sustainable,” Philabaum advised
He said from what he has seen, Amazon has robust safety programs, but as with any new industry, getting novice workers trained to a level so they can avoid injuries is a concern. Demands for deliveries have also surged because of the pandemic and now the holiday season.
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“We prioritize the safety and health of our employees. We require our Delivery Service Partners to do the same. They follow strict labor wage and working conditions requirements that meet or exceed the law. We regularly conduct audits to ensure compliance,” the company said in a response to the Pinnacol study.
Ankles are the body part most likely to be injured, followed by knees, lower backs, the head and then the foot. Because the delivery vans spend most of their time circulating in neighborhoods, vehicle accidents haven’t been as much of a problem.
There are also several steps the public can take to make life easier for all delivery workers:
- Keep the path from the street to the home clear of objects or other debris, like toys or fallen branches.
- Use salt if there’s ice and keep shoveling that snow so it isn’t too deep.
- Secure pets at all times and post a “Beware of Dog” sign so the delivery driver knows what to expect.
- Turn on outside lights in the evening, especially this time of year, when the days are short.
- Add delivery instructions that will help improve safety, such as leaving a package at a side door instead of a front door.
- Keep an eye out when driving for delivery vans that are slowing quickly or pulling off to the side of the road.
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