Is Amazon the safest place to work in retail?

Discussion
Photo: Amazon
May 18, 2021

Amazon’s management wants the world to know that the company is serious when it comes to the health and safety of its workers. The corporate giant has debuted WorkingWell, a comprehensive physical and mental health program intended to make Amazon the safest place to do manual work on the planet.

The company is making a $300 million investment this year and plans to use WorkingWell to help cut workplace injuries in half by 2025. Amazon points to musculoskeletal injuries, including sprains and strains, as its biggest issue. Forty percent of recorded incidents at Amazon facilities fall under the musculoskeletal injury category. Such injuries, typically associated with repetitive actions, are particularly concerning among new employees who may not have worked at similar jobs before Amazon.

Amazon is expanding the WorkingWell program, which it first launched in 2019, to 350 sites in North America and Europe, to cover 859,000 employees.

The program includes:

Health Huddles: Daily gatherings of small groups of workers to watch short interactive videos by health and safety professionals and injury prevention specialists.

Wellness Zones: Voluntary stretching programs taking place in dedicated spaces within Amazon’s facilities. Interactive videos are provided on body mechanics, stretching, etc.

AmaZen: Workers are guided in mindfulness practices via individual interactive kiosks. Employees can visit AmaZen stations during their shifts and watch short videos on guided meditations and more.

Wellness Centers: Amazon uses onsite medical representatives and certified athletic trainers to provide education and first-aid, in the case of injury.

EatWell: Break rooms at Amazon facilities will offer an expanded selection of healthier snacks, such as fruit, granola bars and veggie snack packs. Awareness of healthier eating habits increased during the pilot, with 50 percent of workers surveyed saying they were making more nutritious choices.

Neighborhood Health Centers: Amazon, in partnership with Crossover Health, is providing  employees and their families quality, affordable healthcare within 10 miles of where they work. The Centers provide acute, chronic and preventive care services, including  prescription medications, mental health, physical therapy and pediatrics. Seventeen centers are currently operating in five U.S. cities with 85 percent of workers using this as their one-stop for primary medical care.

Mind & Body Moments: Workers are guided through physical and mental activities at their workstations every hour.

Mobile App: Amazon plans to provide workers with an app to access all the features of the WorkingWell program.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of Amazon’s WorkingWell program, not only as it relates to reducing workplace injuries but also as an employee recruiting and retention tool? Where do you see opportunities for retailers that do not have Amazon’s resources to improve the health and safety of their workers?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"It is great that Amazon is taking the health and wellness of its employees seriously, but so do other retailers."
"The first thing I thought of while reading this is that it’s likely a strategic test for a new Amazon offering for B2B."
"Bravo for Amazon. This is O’Neill’s program on steroids. Not only will Amazon be one of the safest place to work, but will continue to be one of the best."

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15 Comments on "Is Amazon the safest place to work in retail?"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

Given the enormous and growing workforce at Amazon which is substantially doing manual labor in fulfillment centers, focusing on worker safety and health is not only good for employees but for the company as well. And while I applaud the WorkingWell program and its intentions, given the labor conflicts, high turnover, unionization threats and the infamous “measured to the second” productivity metrics, this program offers a strange juxtaposition.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

This is a good initiative that is beneficial for employees. Given the extremely tight labor market, Amazon is absolutely right to focus on retention. I am not sure about Amazon being the safest place to do manual work on the planet, but I do believe Amazon is nowhere near as bad a place to work as is sometimes made out.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Amazon’s WorkingWell is a wonderful perk for its associates – as long as they use it. But is Amazon the safest place to work in retail? I doubt it. There are so many other retailers – corporate and independent – that take the wellness of their associates just as seriously. They just rarely make the news. Still, a $300 million investment is a positive big deal.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

As others have said, safety and worker health are critical in any manual workplace. But the safest place to work on the planet? The hyperbole is a bit much.

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

Amazon is taking a holistic approach to employee health. This is a significant and meaningful investment in their workforce. Given the press Amazon has been getting about their practices this will go a long way to demonstrating commitment to their team’s well-being.

Jennifer Bartashus
BrainTrust

It is great that Amazon is taking the health and wellness of its employees seriously, but so do other retailers. A greater investment on the part of Amazon is welcome, but isn’t necessarily trend setting. Whether this is enough to help with employee retention and attracting talent remains to be seen.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Good for Amazon. This is an excellent showcase of how to do it right. It takes large brands like Amazon to show the rest of the retail world the options they have to offer employees a safe and healthy environment.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust
Hawthorne Experiments in the early 1920s, to everyone’s surprise, found something employers (and researchers) never expected. Today it would sound obvious. If a company pays attention to its workers in almost any way, the workers are likely to be more productive and happier. Long ago, Paul O’Neill’s first speech as the new CEO of Alcoa was a complete failure. The company had experienced years of declining profits. He led with, “I want to talk to you about worker safety.” Almost immediately the attitudes in the room transformed. The energy disappeared. The room was silent. He executed his safety program and EVERY measure of corporate performance increased including revenues, profit, efficient, output. Why? Because he made worker well-being the top priority in the company. Those are just two examples. We can find many more. Bravo for Amazon. This is O’Neill’s program on steroids. Not only will Amazon be one of the safest place to work, but will continue to be one of the best. The results for the company will be measured in every aspect of… Read more »
Kevin Graff
BrainTrust

This is a good move for Amazon on several fronts:

  1. Looking after your employees is your first priority;
  2. It will boost the bottom line in the mid to long term for the company as we all know that engaged employees are infinitely more productive.
  3. As always, Amazon knows how to get free advertising as they know this will be picked up not just by us BrainTrust panelists, but also the media who will give them millions of “imprints” at no cost.
  4. Every business, not just Amazon, needs to implement programs that keep employees safe, respected and engaged.

Kai Clarke
BrainTrust

This is smart, and shows the concerns of Amazon for workers’ health, wellness and safety in the workplace. Better yet, Amazon is vested in this and is setting an example through their leadership!

Laura Davis-Taylor
BrainTrust
Laura Davis-Taylor
Founder, Branded Ground
5 months 1 day ago

The first thing I thought of while reading this is that it’s likely a strategic test for a new Amazon offering for B2B. I’ve always felt that Amazon was coming for health, but they don’t launch anything publicly until it’s ready for mass scale. I love the spirit of it, but I’m betting that this will become WorkingWell by Amazon for business owners. When that happens, what do they get? Data. Lots and lots of data tied to lots of people’s health that ties to lots of money in health, wellness and pharma. I don’t mean to sound jaded, but Amazon has never done anything out of altruism — they use a sharp hook to solve real friction points and make gobs of money (and secure lots of power) by doing it.

Mel Kleiman
BrainTrust

The polling question asked is about the effectiveness of the program. If the program were to reduce accidents by just one, it would be considered effective. But the key to this program is not just that it is a safety program to reduce accidents — it is a lifestyle changing program that goes way beyond the reduction of workplace accidents and looks at life choices and the relations of giving patterns that will not only affect the employees but will have an impact on their families. This will be a real positive when it comes to recruiting and retaining a workforce that will continue to give Amazon a competitive edge. I hope they make the program available to all employees, not just warehouse workers.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

Well said, Mel. It goes far beyond the eight hours the employees spend working at Amazon.

Joe Skorupa
BrainTrust

Smart move by Amazon on many levels. Investing in workers is one of the major unheralded trends in retail today and represents a sea change for the industry. It involves more than safety and increasing wages. Research data shows the top category for retail tech investment today is in workforce management and engagement tools. My recent blog examined this major shift.

Jlauderbach
Guest

Worker acquisition and retention is a problem for all companies. Many firms are raising their starting wages to attract new employees (as is Amazon). Amazon announced it will surpass 1 million workers in the U.S. this year. They are hoping to hire 75,000 this year in fulfillment and transportation. The cost of onboarding and education is high. Workmans Comp is a high cost. This initiative will probably have positive return within a short time.

Creating a safe work environment will make Amazon a more attractive employer and will help in retaining their workers. If embraced by the employees, it will also impede the unionization effort. Setting the bar at being the safest company to work for is consistent with Amazon’s drive on all fronts. Worker safety may be their next big business disrupter.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"It is great that Amazon is taking the health and wellness of its employees seriously, but so do other retailers."
"The first thing I thought of while reading this is that it’s likely a strategic test for a new Amazon offering for B2B."
"Bravo for Amazon. This is O’Neill’s program on steroids. Not only will Amazon be one of the safest place to work, but will continue to be one of the best."

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