A worker at Amazon’s distribution centre in Swansea has complained that he was required to walk up to 11 miles and collect an order every 33 seconds during a shift that can last 10 and half hours.
If true these facts are troubling. The cornerstone of the UK’s Health & Safety regime is risk assessment. Despite the company’s statement that safety is their ‘number 1 priority’, it is hard to imagine how a proper risk assessment would not readily identify the risks from being on one’s feet for so long and the additional stress from having to work to such demanding targets.
In Canada, guidance has recently been given to workers who are on their feet for long periods. One of the problems the Canadians observed was that of hard concrete floors, as well as the need to break up the period of time in which a worker is on his/her feet.
Additionally Illness through stress is the biggest cause of absence from work in the UK. There were 428,000 absences through stress in 2011, out of a total of just over 1 million work related cases. The pressure of working to a scanner’s digital countdown, as was experienced at Amazon, must be foreseeably likely to cause mental strain and a risk of subsequent illness.
In order to avoid both risks, then one would have thought that organising the huge warehouse in a way that resulted in a worker being allocated a category of book or other items confined to a discreet section of the workplace would help in limiting the distance to travel and easing the ability to hit the targets. As with all good risk assessment, one should assess the risk then look how one can best avoid it. It’s usually not rocket science.