At an Amazon warehouse in Robbinsville, New Jersey a 255g can of bear repellent was punctured by an automated machine and 24 employees were taken to hospital.
The repellent, designed to scare off wild bears contained a highly concentrated pepper spray solution. The fumes released quickly filled the contained area of the warehouse and resulted in an entire wing of the building being evacuated.
Amazon says the incident was the result of an “automated machine” and the employees were taken to hospital “as a precaution”.
The emergency services were called on Wednesday where, in a 911 call it was reported that 54 workers were experiencing symptoms. In total, 24 workers were taken to local hospitals and a further 30 received medical treatment at the scene.
Rachael Lighty, External communication manager for Amazon said, “The safety of our employees is always our top priority and a full investigation is already underway. All of the impacted employees have been, or are expected to be, released from the hospital within the next 24 hours.”
The incident has intensified negative attention for Amazon, as their warehouses in the US and UK are increasingly criticised for their poor working practices, low pay and a focus on productivity above worker safety.
Stuart Appelbaum, the president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department store Union, said: “Amazon’s automated robots put humans in life-threatening danger. This is another outrageous example of the company putting profits over the health and safety of their workers, and we cannot stand for this. The richest company in the world cannot continue to be let off the hook for putting hard working people’s lives at risk.”