Skip to content

Amazon fined for unsafe working conditions at San Bernardino warehouse

Workers were not provided enough shade or water during intense summer heat, according to OSHA citations

Amazon cited for not providing workers at San Bernardino KSBD warehouse enough shade and water during intense summer heat in 2023. (Photo: iStock Lawrence Glass)

Amazon has been issued three citations, including two serious violations, from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) for exposing workers in San Bernardino to dangerous heat conditions over the summer.

Why it matters: The investigation found that workers did not have sufficient access to drinking water or shade and both supervisors and employees were not adequately trained to keep workers safe in the heat. 

Details: The citations, issued in January and announced by the Warehouse Workers Resource Center on Feb. 21, followed a complaint filed by Amazon ramp workers at KSBD, the company’s San Bernardino air hub. The workers are members of the Inland Empire Amazon Workers United (IEAWU), and in their complaint outlined inadequate safety measures during weeks of scorching temperatures. 

Cal/OSHA opened an investigation and conducted multiple on-site inspections and interviews to see if the worker’s claims were true. The investigation revealed alarming safety concerns, especially as daily temperatures in San Bernardino are increasingly over 90 and even 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Ramp workers were regularly exposed to extreme heat while on the tarmac and only found relief from aircraft shadows. 

“The employer utilized the shadow under the Boeing 767-300 as shade in the ramp area for employees to take their preventable cool-down rest,” the citation states. “The employees only stand and are not able to rest and sit in a normal posture while under the aircraft for preventive cool-down rest.”

Amazon has been ordered to pay a total of $14,625 in fines. 

In response, Amazon has stated its intention to appeal three of the citations. A spokesperson from the retail giant told CalMatters that the indoor air hub is air-conditioned and that workers are encouraged to take breaks. They went on to defend the company's indoor heat standard: "We’ve seen the positive impacts of an effective heat mitigation program and believe all employers should be held to the same standard as we have proactively set."

Warehouse worker account: “We saw that Amazon was more concerned with loading and unloading the planes as fast as possible than with our safety,” said Regina Herrmann, who works on the ramp at the Amazon air hub, in a statement. “We work out on the tarmac without enough shade and sometimes without enough water. Last summer was scary. It got so hot and we did not always have enough water to drink or time to let our bodies cool down. We sometimes had to crouch or stand under the planes for shade. We knew we had to do something before someone was seriously injured.”

Zoom out: Amazon has previously been cited by the Department of Labor multiple times across the country from Colorado to Idaho and New York for exposing workers to ergonomic hazards incurred from lifting heavy boxes quickly to meet high demand.