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14 Dec, 2021 05:40

Deceased Amazon workers were allegedly prohibited to leave after tornado warning

Deceased Amazon workers were allegedly prohibited to leave after tornado warning

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is investigating Amazon after one of the company’s warehouses in Illinois collapsed during a storm, killing six people who were allegedly prohibited from leaving.

OSHA will investigate Amazon over the next six months and determine whether any workplace safety violations took place in the warehouse at the time of its collapse.

In a statement, Amazon said it would support OSHA’s investigation, which it claimed was routine.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker said the officials would determine “if there were any structural issues” with the Amazon warehouse and “what exactly the storm's trajectory was coming in and affecting the various pieces of the building.”

A series of tornadoes tore through six states including Illinois on Friday, killing more than 100 people and destroying homes and businesses. The Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois collapsed during the storm, killing at least six people who did not have adequate shelter to survive.

One of the killed Amazon employees, Larry Virden, had reportedly messaged his girlfriend to say that he was unable to leave the warehouse before it collapsed on Friday. “Well I will be home after the storm… Amazon won’t let us leave,” Virden wrote just minutes before he was killed.

Virden’s girlfriend Cherie Jones claimed her boyfriend would have had around 20 minutes to get home – which was only experiencing lightning – if Amazon had let him leave.

“It’s that what-if situation: What if they would have let him leave? He could have made it home,” she said.

Amazon CEO Dave Clark received backlash on social media for issuing a statement following the tragedy which said the company was “deeply saddened by the news that members of our Amazon family passed away as a result of the storm.”

Critics pointed out that the storm was forecast and questioned why Amazon allowed its employees to work under such conditions. Critics also protested over Amazon’s rules that prevent employees from carrying their phones, arguing that the rule prevented staff from keeping up to date with weather warnings.

“Amazon knew it was dangerous to force workers to show up on Friday, and yet the company did it anyway – while preventing employees from having access to potentially life-saving weather alerts on their phones,” tweeted former US secretary of labor Robert Reich. “Corporate greed is deadly.”