After claiming a worker's death wasn't caused by heat, Amazon improved the warehouse's air condition

The business claimed that an employee who passed away at a facility in New Jersey had a "personal medical problem." This comes as the business faces rising safety worries from labor leaders and government officials.


According to three facility employees and photos reviewed by NBC News, Amazon improved the air conditioning system at a New Jersey warehouse where it blamed a worker's death during a heat wave last month on a "personal medical issue."

In one image, a sizable new ducting system with ducts pointing upward has been erected on the ground level of the warehouse in Carteret known as EWR9.

The device, according to the workers, was a component of a new industrial air conditioner that the business added a few weeks after Rafael Reynaldo Mota Frias, a 42-year-old Dominican national, passed away in mid-July. It was unclear whether the system was currently operational.


Additionally, workers reported that more fans had just been installed around the warehouse. According to seven workers at the site, the location where Frias was working when he collapsed was well known to be particularly hot and with limited air circulation.


Amazon claimed to update its facilities regularly. According to company spokesman Sam Stephenson, "Our climate control systems continuously measure the temperature in our facilities, and our safety personnel is enabled to take action to resolve any temperature-related issues." He said that the business takes safeguards for employee safety in hot weather, always makes water stations available (not only on hot days), and promotes water breaks.

Amid a summer with record heat across the nation, Amazon and other big logistics operators, such as UPS and FedEx, have come under increasing scrutiny for working conditions. Concerns have been made concerning the safety of delivery drivers, warehouse workers, and others who spend the summer working outside or in vast industrial facilities due to the high temperatures. Numerous employees at an Amazon air hub in San Bernardino, California, staged a walkout last week, among other reasons citing the dangers heat poses to their jobs.


After receiving numerous reports of injuries at Amazon facilities over the years, federal authorities, including the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan, launched an investigation into the company's warehouses this summer. They asked employees, managers, and others about the working environment there.

Employees at the Carteret completion center said that after Frias' passing, supervisors started providing more water and snacks and promoting breaks, which infuriated and perplexed the EWR9 employees.


One EWR9 employee and a picture of the chart claim that management put charts depicting dehydration dangers denoted by urine color in some of the facility's restrooms after the worker passed away. Amazon didn't respond to the bathroom notices right away.

"Amazon is a company that responds to circumstances. They're not proactive," claimed the employee, who requested anonymity out of concern for negative consequences. They pretend to be doing something after waiting for something to happen.


After Frias' passing, the employee claimed that supervisors made sure there were fans at every workstation, but that areas of the warehouse with insufficient cold air continued to be extremely hot.


Every station didn't have a fan before he died, the employee claimed. "A fan is blowing hot air on you while it's heated inside a warehouse."

During the hectic Prime Day shopping rush on July 13, Frias passed away after collapsing at about 8 a.m. This occurred at the same time as an East Coast heat wave that caused outdoor temperatures in the Carteret area to drop into the low 90s. Asserting that Frias had been kept working despite alerting management that he was experiencing chest symptoms, facility workers and Amazon Labor Union President Chris Smalls claim that they believe the heat was a contributing factor.


Amazon disagrees with that account of what happened. Stephenson cited the business's statement from last month, in which it denied the "rumors" surrounding Frias' passing and stated that an internal investigation had established it "was connected to a personal medical problem."

Federal officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration started an investigation after the incident, and they have subsequently opened another probe into two further deaths of workers at a different Amazon plant in New Jersey. According to police reported in local news accounts, one of those deaths was caused by a fall from a ladder, while the circumstances surrounding the other fatality are less clear. OSHA said the investigations are still ongoing but would not elaborate. Amazon has stated that it is working with the authorities to conduct the investigation.

The Labor Department's workplace safety office claims that heat is a "growing problem" endangering workers throughout the nation. The development of a federal standard addressing workplace heat has been put on OSHA's formal agenda, and labor advocates are advocating for it. At least four states, including California, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington, have laws limiting excessive heat in the workplace, and lawmakers in additional states are thinking about enacting similar regulations.

Employees at the EWR9 warehouse claimed that after the worker's death, bosses appeared to loosen up a bit until recently becoming more rigorous. Some employees said that management had enforced stricter rules in some areas, like prohibiting employees from using their phones at their stations or even listening to music. They also claimed that firings for minor offenses were happening more regularly.


Sequoya Guyden claimed that she lost her job at the start of August as a result of missing a few days of work because her car broke down while she was on her lunch break. A set amount of unpaid time off is allowed to Amazon employees, and Guyden claimed that her balance had been low.


She claimed that she made an effort to argue her point to the business, even sending proof of her car's repair. She claims that after attempting to resolve the matter with an HR person, the conversation turned tense and she received advice to either walk or take a cab to work.

She was fired, and Amazon informed Guyden through email that the proper paperwork hadn't been delivered. She attempted to challenge the ruling, but a subsequent email informed her that it had been sustained. NBC News was able to examine both emails, which were signed "EWR9 HR" rather than by a manager's name.


Guyden claims that she suffered retaliation because she pushed back in her conversation with the human resources representative.

Guyden received a second email from EWR9 HR on Friday after NBC News contacted Amazon about her situation, letting her know that she could appeal by phone on Monday at 8 a.m. and acknowledging a "miscommunication" in the situation.


Guyden claimed she has a new job starting this week and no longer wants to work for Amazon.


She responded, "I shouldn't have to go through it at all." "I have four children and am a single mother. The kids have seen me be frugal and offensesbudgeted. Going back to work amid [Amazon's] instability won't make things better for me.


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