NORTH RANDALL, Ohio — Amazon provided media access to its North Randall fulfillment center to illustrate the shipping behemoth’s measures to ensure employee safety amid the pandemic.
The pandemic saw the company net its largest-ever profits. In July, Amazon reported that it doubled its net second-quarter profits to $5.2 billion compared to the same period in 2019. The company also touted that it hired 175,000 employees to work in its fulfillment warehouses and for its delivery service.
But the company, a favorite target of labor-rights groups who criticize it for working conditions in its warehouses, said last week that more than 19,000 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 this year. The company has encountered pressure to release data on how many of its employees have tested positive.
“When you look at COVID rates and things along that nature, I’m super proud to be working for an organization that takes the safety and wellbeing of the associates so strong,” Amazon’s senior regional workplace health and safety manager Valerie Douglas said during Thursday’s tour. “I’ve always had a passion for helping people, so I get to work with a lot of talented individuals, a lot of other safety professionals in the organization.”
Douglas declined to disclose whether any associates have tested positive at the North Randall facility.
Before walking past the main lobby at the Amazon Fulfillment Center in North Randall, employees and visitors must wait for an associate to give two thumbs up.
The fulfillment center has an associate working its thermal camera at the main entrance. If someone has a temperature below 100.4 degrees, they’re cleared — hence the two thumbs up.
If their temperature is 100.4 degrees or higher, they must go to the side for a secondary screening. If they don’t pass that, then they can’t enter.
The temperature check is just one of many safety measures Amazon has implemented, as the company has devised more than 150 new processes during the pandemic, Douglas said.
Whether that’s having socially distanced break rooms, handing out masks at the front, or placing sanitizer throughout the facility, the company is striving to keep its employees safe, Douglas said.
Douglas said the center is following standard CDC and WHO guidelines on managing positive cases, including having people quarantined for 14 days. She said associates are notified of when other employees have tested positive.
“Associates have been very vocal in providing positive feedback with a lot of our initiatives and efforts,” Douglas said. “Recognizing there’s been a lot of other businesses that may have had to shut down or lay people off, we’ve given folks an opportunity to continue working, serving the community. Very complimentary of the distribution of masks as well as some of the physical barriers that have been placed here in the fulfillment center.”
The fulfillment center has about 2,500 employees. To help make sure there aren’t too many associates in the building, the center has staggered shifts.
Along with shift staggering, the fulfillment center has also used social distancing ambassadors, associates who help make sure people are social distancing when they enter. Donna Shaw has been an ambassador since the pandemic began, and she said people are good about social distancing.
Shaw has recently taken on an additional role. She helps monitor the building’s on-site COVID-19 testing, which the company implemented in recent weeks. The tests are self-administered, and Shaw keeps a log of people who tested. She said as many as over 40 people had done tests in a day.
Chris Flagg, an associate, approached the testing site Thursday afternoon. Shaw, who has experience as a medical assistant and nursing assistant, walked him through how to take the test. A clinician also helps monitor the test.
“I love helping keep people safe, (and not) go and take anything home to their families or bring anything in to our coworkers,” Shaw said.
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