Amazon.com Inc. is holding off on plans to ban cell phones from the company’s warehouses after six workers died when a facility in Edwardsville, Illinois collapsed after being struck by a tornado on Dec. 10.
The e-commerce giant had previously planned to prohibit employees from bringing mobile phones into Amazon warehouses, then on Friday workers received a message that cell phones would be allowed “until further notice,” which the company confirmed Saturday.
Prior to the pandemic, Amazon employees were not allowed to have their phones on warehouse floors. Rules required phones to be left in employees’ vehicles or in lockers near break rooms.
Amazon relaxed the policy during the pandemic, but announced earlier this year that the ban would resume in January 2022.
The restrictions were originally instituted over concerns that smartphones were a safety risk, especially in industrial operations, due to the potential of workers becoming distracted. Some businesses also believe phones with cameras can be used to compromise sensitive technology and information.
Why It Matters
Following the deadly collapse of the Illinois warehouse, workers were questioning Amazon’s commitment to their safety.
Text messages between a driver and supervisor at the warehouse showed that as the tornado was approaching the area, the employee was told to “keep delivering,” according to a Bloomberg report.
Amazon workers say their phones provide them with updated information, including severe weather events, while they are working. They argue that smartphones can also help them contact emergency responders or loved ones if they are trapped.
By Michael Cohen
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