Amazon workers hospitalized after warehouse robot sprays bear repellent

Amazon workers hospitalized after warehouse robot sprays bear repellent

Bear repellent sent two dozen workers at an Amazon fulfillment center in New Jersey to hospitals on Wednesday after a machine punctured an aerosol canister of the spray, causing it to discharge toxic fumes inside the building, a town spokesman told CNN.

On Wednesday evening, one of the 24 people hospitalized was in critical condition, while another 30 were treated on the scene, ABC News says.

The workers were treated at five different hospitals in Robbinsville, New Jersey.

Robbinsville Township Public Information Officer John Nalbone said the official investigation had found "an automated machine accidentally punctured a 9-ounce bear repellent can, releasing concentrated capsaicin". The safety of our employees is always our top priority and a full investigation is already underway.

Amazon confirmed that the accident dispersed strong fumes in the area of the facility.

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"All of the impacted employees have been or are expected to be released from hospital within the next 24 hours", the company continued.

Rachael Lighty, a spokeswoman for Amazon, claimed in a statement to the Washington Post that "the safety of our employees is our top priority". "We appreciate the swift response of our local responders".

The accident has brought questions into Amazon's safety practices and the use of robots in the workplace. Between 2015 and 2017, ambulances were called to Amazon warehouses 600 times.

The incident has again shone a spotlight on conditions in Amazon's warehouses, which have been criticised in the U.S. and the United Kingdom for poor working practices and a focus on productivity above worker safety.

"Amazon's automated robots put humans in life-threatening danger today, the effects of which could be catastrophic and the long-term effects for 80 plus workers are unknown", president Stuart Appelbaum said. The report notes that seven Amazon employees have died on or near the job since 2013.

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