• Sheri Greenwell
    According to this article, Amazon's order fulfilment centres operate under brutal pressure, resulting in injury rates far higher than industry norms.


    What measures should we be taking regarding due diligence in making our online buying decisions?
  • Andrew
    Hmmm. Am I allowed to say the person in the photo appears to be carrying a few extra kilos which would be detrimental to spine health and may not be in great physical condition for the job she applied for.

    This is not a new problem. In a previous life we had problems with Librarians when we introduced scan technology for issuing books. How many times does a CheckOut Operator in a supermarket scan in an hour?

    On the plus side, interesting to see the introduction of robots. When making ethical decisions we should also be aware that some people are only capable of "low paid" jobs and as we increase the costs of business the return on investment when making a robot capital purchase becomes more appealing. Which then leaves the "low paid' worker with no job.

    As an aside I always find statistics interesting. Like Amazon has twice the injury rate relative to the warehouse industry. And then you probe a bit further. Apparently Amazon workers are simply discarded once they have an injury and easily replaced. This would be at odds with Eastvales unemployment rates which are said to be 3.2% against the USA average of 3.9%. When you have such low unemployment it is not easy to simply replace lost staff. So something doesnt add up. (Nz's unemployment is around 4.2% and we are close to hiring people with 4 limbs and a heartbeat as the minimum qualification)
  • Michelle Dykstra
    This is not merely the introduction of new technology, this is automation to the point of robotising the worker... Humans competing with robots in a race of survival of the fittest. It's clear who will lose.
    Call me old-school or off-topic but I am for a post-consumerism revolution to go back to buying only what we need.
    Try buying local or NZ made when possible. Here workers benefit from legislative protections.
    Be prepared to pay a fair price; support ethical companies who pass this fair price on to their workers as fair wages and conditions.
    If the price paid for an item would not cover cost of goods and fair wages, then someone probably suffered to make the product available to you.
    Support suppliers and manufacturers who create sustainable jobs. Yes I said "create".
  • Andrew
    Talking of statistics, according to NZISM "New Zealand still sits in the lowest quartile of OECD countries, with numbers of deaths per 100,000 workers up to five times that of the UK." So perhaps we shouldn't be buying local and instead going to Amazon

    Article here : https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/BU1904/S00629/world-safety-day-puts-spotlight-on-work-health-and-safety.htm

    Also looks like Amazon is great at "creating" jobs, and it looks like their growth is sustainable.


    Maybe Amazon UK is the place to shop.
  • Michelle Dykstra
    • Under NZ law, a final written warning issued on the basis of a 1.55% percent shortfall in production and the ensuing dismissal for a 'confrontation' would unlikely be accepted as lawful by the ERA.
    • Continuing operations with a gas leak to the point workers are hospitalised, I expect would attract a Worksafe investigation and follow up.
    • Failing to effectively maintain forklifts by qualified personnel and failing to provide basic safety training contributing to a fatality would attract a prosecution.

    Overall, I'd like to believe - correct me if I am wrong - that if a large employer were to conduct business this way in NZ, it would attract much more than media attention. I am thinking intervention by Worksafe, Dept of Labour and perhaps even union involvement.

    Not at all implying that NZ is leading the way or above reproach. But we have a range of worker protections in place which don't feature in this article.

    As robots become more and more a part of our workplaces, we need more than ever before an ethical approach to job design to ensure we as humans can continue to function as humans and our need for some variety of movement, toilet breaks, freedom to 'think' and 'breathe' are preserved.

    What strikes me as sadly ironic is the name of the performance management system "ADAPT".
    Is this code for workers needing to adapt to working with robot, like robots?

    “Before robots, it was still tough, but it was manageable,” he said. Afterward, “we were in a fight that we just can’t win.”
  • Andrew
    Increased worker protections are good - but come with a cost.

    We are introducing more robotics and automation into the business as our human costs are pushed up by compliance (eg holiday pay, ACC, minimum wage, living wage, compulsory leave entitlements etc)

    I won't say whether I think these are good or bad. But what they do is push you towards automation where the time to get a return on capital invested reduces substantially.

    The positives on automation is they dont take holidays, don't get sick, are pretty much always ready to work, dont complain and hardly ever hurt themselves (and with good buying don't hurt people).

    And the interesting thing is where workers are required with this new technology, we don't need as high a skill level
  • Sheri Greenwell
    FYI - Rebuttal from Amazon via EHS Today:

    This is another topic in which it is vitally important to connect all the dots and don't just criticize a worker for appearing to be overweight, with the assumption they must be very unfit (I have met some people who look overweight but are incredibly athletic!!).

    1. Consumer demand is a key driver of many products and services, many of which we complain are unethical - for example, many people speak out about the dangers of genetic modification, yet growers are like any other business and want to achieve more profitable crops, while the general population typically aims to keep its expenditures as low as possible. It's kind of like a 'game' where everyone is seeking the opportunity to have some kind of break-out advantage. The needs of these two groups are essentially diametrically opposed, resulting in some experimentation with methods that will allow both to get what they want, and without taking the full set of consequences into account because we don't yet have enough information to really quantify the health risks and other potential consequences.

    2. The cost of compliance is an interesting matter. I have often heard the comment that NZ is among the most highly regulated countries in the world. I will resist the urge (for now at least!) to delve into some of the values and perspectives underlying the urge to make rules for so many parts of life, and just have a look at the issue of cost.

    Rigid compliance requirements are often imposed as a knee-jerk reaction, typically with a relatively superficial aim (a bit like assigning a root cause without having done appropriate root cause analysis), often accompanied by a raft of ambiguities and omissions that further muddy the waters. Without sound foundations, compliance is often implemented based on inefficient and bureaucratic assumptions that ultimately add costs that no one really knows how to justify, other than "because WorkSafe said so". So the 'good' guys do their best to comply, and the 'bad' guys either look for every loophole or wait for someone to come along and catch them, happily counting the dough they have saved by holding out.

    HSNO itself is a very interesting example of how a regulatory framework comes into existence - it took the ICI fire to get the public to sit up and take notice, and then politicians needed to be seen to be taking prompt action. The history of HSNO included a crazy patchwork quilt of regulatory frameworks, with separate regulatory agencies that didn't work with each other and each had its own inspectors - I used to work with a chemical company as HSEQ & Regulatory Manager, coordinated Dangerous Goods Licenses, Poisons Licenses, Building Warrant of Fitness, Air Discharge Consent, etc. When HSNO became law, substances registered with the Ministry of Health were turned over to ERMA, who had been expecting only a few thousand substances to be registered, but there were so many flaws in the systems that there were HUNDREDS of thousands of substances to wade through, requiring resources they had not anticipated! The board of ERMA included a number of people with very little practical knowledge of chemicals or chemical production, so they imposed their own 'zero-risk' approaches and created very rigid and impractical frameworks, with most of their advisors brand-new university graduates with no real-world experience - when they didn't know much and were not sure of the facts, they rigidly applied limits and there was no room for discussion unless a company wanted to take on an expensive and time-consuming appeal. I experienced it all first hand!! They became too focused on perceived differences between the substances themselves and lost track of the overarching intention to regulate the hazardous PROPERTIES of those substances - classic case of not seeing the forest for the trees!

    I am please to note that much later in the piece, with those worry-worts gone from the board, regulators finally realized the sense in implementing what we tried to suggest right at the beginning and implemented generic approvals for groups of substances, which is much more sensible on all fronts and also supports innovation and improvement, which goes some way as an incentive to make those substances safer.

    3. It seems very hypocritical for NZ government to impose more and more regulatory requirements on New Zealand businesses, while at the same time holding the back door open and encouraging businesses to move their manufacturing to China. We all KNOW that China does not operate by the same standards for workplace safety, environmental protection and sustainability. Eve those companies that audit and produce reports that verify 'compliance', it is very well known that most Chinese businesses will agree to whatever is asked of them, sign any required documents, and then just go on and do what they like. There may be some of those businesses that do comply, however I can imagine that most, exactly like their NZ counterparts, are more concerned about the bottom line and not missing opportunities, so they just cut corners where they can as they try to survive and hope to thrive.

    NZ businesses that set up those business operations in China still have obligations to ensure worker safety and environmental protection. Just because we can't see it with our own eyes here in NZ doesn't mean it isn't happening, and it doesn't mean it doesn't affect us.

    Not only do we all share one planet Earth; we now operate in a global economy. Asian countries have stopped accepting waste from western countries, and we can probably expect them to push back on unsafe work activities, too. So we really should be starting to think about new paradigms.

    I agree with Michelle about re-thinking the role each of us plays in all of this. My partner and I have been actively simplifying and streamlining how we live, growing as much of our own food as we can, making more environmentally-friendly and sustainable choices about what we buy and consume, including the ethics of producers, the materials used, the waste produced, packaging, safety, durability, etc. and scaling down as much as we can. I can't solve the whole system, but I can make better informed and more conscientious decisions within my own sphere of influence, and if each person did just that, we could really make a difference.
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