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Tuesday, 26 November 2013 11:53

Working for Amazon could be a killer

Written by Nick Farrell



BBC investigation claims the stress will get you

BBC snoops claim that the working conditions at the Swansea-based Amazon warehouse create the levels of stress which an expert says could cause "mental and physical illness". Prof Michael Marmot was shown secret filming of night shifts at the Amazon warehouse where workers were ordered to carry out 11 miles of walking and collect orders every 33 seconds.

Undercover Panorama hack Adam Littler, 23, got an agency job at Amazon's Swansea warehouse. He took a hidden camera inside for BBC Panorama to record what happened on his shifts. He had to collecting orders from 800,000 sq ft of storage. The report showed a handset telling hyim him what to collect and put on his trolley. It allotted him a set number of seconds to find each product and counted down. If he made a mistake, the scanner beeped. Littler said it was as if he was a robot. Although he was holding the scanner, it might as well be plugged into his brain. The scanner tracked Mr Littler's picking rate and sent his performance to managers. If it was too low, he was told he could face disciplinary action.

"We are machines, we are robots, we plug our scanner in, we're holding it, but we might as well be plugging it into ourselves,” he said. Amazon does not allow people to think for themselves or trust workers to be human, he claimed.

Prof Marmot, one of Britain's leading experts on stress at work, said the working conditions at the warehouse are "all the bad stuff at once.” He said that the characteristics of this type of job, the evidence shows increased risk of mental illness and physical illness.

Amazon pointed out that official safety inspections had never raised any concerns and that an independent expert appointed by the company advised that the picking job is "similar to jobs in many other industries and does not increase the risk of mental and physical illness".

Littler said that after experiencing a ten-and-a-half-hour night shift, he managed to walk or hobble nearly 11 miles and was shattered. Well that is what life is like outside the BBC.

Nick Farrell

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