EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is calling on Amazon to improve its severe weather emergency procedures after a tornado struck its warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois, and killed six people.
OSHA investigators determined Amazon’s procedures meets the bare minimum for federal safety guidelines for storm sheltering. However, safety officials said Amazon should make improvements to protect its workers and contract drivers in case of future emergencies. OSHA does not have a standard for severe weather plans but offers recommendations to employers.
“Employers should re-evaluate their emergency plans for the safest shelter-in-place locations and prepare before an emergency to ensure workers know where to go and how to keep themselves safe in the event of a disaster,” said OSHA Regional Administrator William Donovan.
An EF3 tornado hit the Amazon distribution center, located just off Interstate 255, on Dec. 10, 2021. Forty-five Amazon workers were able to get out of the warehouse safely, with one airlifted to a hospital for treatment. Six people were killed when the Amazon facility collapsed.
The victims were identified as 28-year-old Deandre S. Morrow of St. Louis; 62-year-old Kevin D. Dickey of Carlyle, Illinois; 29-year-old Clayton Lynn Cope of Alton, Illinois; 34-year-old Etheria S. Hebb of St. Louis; 46-year-old Larry E. Virden of Collinsville, Illinois; and 26-year-old Austin J. McEwen of Edwardsville.
Amazon is currently is defendant in a number of lawsuits tied to the tragedy. Attorneys for the victims’ families say the e-commerce giant acted with negligence in the construction of the building, a disregard for the workers’ lives, and did not heed severe weather warnings from area meteorologists prior to the tornado.
OSHA’s hazard alert letter sent to Amazon offers the following recommendations to improve worker safety at the Edwardsville warehouse:
- Ensure all employees are provided training and participate in emergency weather drills
- Include site-specific information in severe weather emergency plans
- All audible warning devices and their locations should be clearly identified to employees and ready accessible.
This is a breaking news story and will be continually updated.