A robot malfunctioned in a New Jersey Amazon warehouse and tore open a can of bear spray, sending 24 workers to the hospital on Wednesday.
“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,” Stuart Appelbaum, the president of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, said in a scathing statement to ABC News. “The richest company in the world cannot continue to be let off the hook for putting hard working people’s lives at risk.”
Like pepper spray, bear spray is typically made out of extremely spicy peppers. Amazon sells many types of the spray, the regular purpose of which is to repel rampaging bears — but in the confines of the warehouse, it laid waste to two dozen Amazon workers.
One worker was in critical condition after the accident in Robbinsville Township, a local official told ABC — but all workers were expected to be released from the hospital within 24 hours.
Amazon, which has caught flak for poor working conditions in its warehouses as it’s grown into a global retail giant — though it did give its workers a substantial raise this year — immediately sprang into a defensive posture.
“The safety of our employees is our top priority, and as such, all employees in that area have been relocated to safe place and employees experiencing symptoms are being treated onsite,” an Amazon spokesperson told ABC in a statement. “As a precaution, some employees have been transported to local hospitals for evaluation and treatment.”
READ MORE: 24 Amazon Workers Sent to Hospital After Robot Accidentally Unleashes Bear Spray [ABC News]
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