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Washington state to boost Amazon workers’ compensation

UPDATED: Wed., Dec. 2, 2020

 (Associated Press)
(Associated Press)
By Katherine Khashimova Long Seattle Times

Recognizing that working in an Amazon fulfillment center is more hazardous than other types of warehouse work, Washington state’s labor agency announced Monday it will boost the commerce giant’s workers’ compensation premium rates by 15% starting Jan. 1.

That could potentially cost the Seattle-based company millions more a year than it’s paying now.

The new rates will be higher than more than 260 other industries, including mechanized logging and law enforcement.

Until now, the state Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has grouped Amazon’s fulfillment centers with other kinds of warehouses when calculating premium rates, which are in part based on the number of injuries within industry-specific risk classes. That caused some grocery distributors and recycling facilities to complain that higher injury rates at Amazon’s 24 Washington fulfillment centers — where online orders are sorted, packed and shipped — were driving up premiums for the entire industry. Warehouse premium rates statewide soared 18% this year, compared with 2019.

“Bottom line, fulfillment centers are very different from a warehouse,” said Tammie Hetrick, the president of the Washington Food Industry Association, a group representing grocery distributors. “When Amazon had a poor performance, it affected everyone within the risk class.”

Workers’ comp claims arising from Amazon fulfillment centers increased nearly threefold between 2014 and 2018, L&I injury claims data shows. Meanwhile, the number of claims from non-Amazon warehouses has trended steadily downward for years.

Reflecting its better safety record, the warehousing industry will see a 20% rate cut in 2021, bringing workers’ comp rates lower than any time in the past five years.

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