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OSHA opens second Amazon probe following two more worker deaths in New Jersey

Federal work-safety investigators are looking into the death of an Amazon worker and an injury that potentially led to the death of another employee, adding to a probe already underway following a fatality during the company's annual Prime Day shopping event in mid-July.

All three Amazon workers died within the past month and were employed at company facilities in New Jersey.

The new Occupational Health and Safety Administration investigations are putting fresh scrutiny on Amazon's injury rates and workplace safety procedures, which labor and safety advocates have long criticized as inadequate.

Department of Labor spokesperson Denisha Braxton confirmed Thursday that the most recent fatality took place last week at an Amazon facility in Monroe Township, about 20 miles northeast of Trenton. The second probe is looking into a July 24 accident at an Amazon facility in Robbinsville. The worker involved in that accident died three days later, according to Braxton.

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In a statement, Robbinsville Police Chief Michael Polaski said police responded to the warehouse, called PNE5, on July 24 after receiving a report that a worker fell from a three-foot ladder and struck his head.

Polaski said the worker was conscious and alert when police arrived. But police were told CPR was conducted on the person by other workers prior to their arrival, he said. The person was transported to a hospital and OSHA was notified of the incident on the same day, he added.

Police in Monroe Township didn't immediately reply to a request for comment on the incident there.

The two most recent deaths were first reported by the USA Today Network.

OSHA officials declined to provide additional information about any of the deaths, citing the open investigations. The agency has up to six month to complete each probe.

Sam Stephenson, a spokesperson for Seattle-based Amazon, said in a statement the company was "deeply saddened by the passing of our colleagues and offer our condolences to their family and friends."

"Our investigations are ongoing and we're cooperating with OSHA, which is conducting its own reviews of the events, as it often does in these situations," Stephenson said.

Prime Day worker fatality

Last month, OSHA launched another investigation into a worker fatality at an Amazon warehouse in the New Jersey town of Carteret during the company's Prime Day shopping event, which turned out to be the biggest in the company's history. Federal officials haven't released additional details about the death, but news reports have identified the worker as 42-year-old Rafael Reynaldo Mota Frias.

A spokesperson for Amazon said the company's internal investigation into the Carteret death shows it "was not a work-related incident, and instead was related to a personal medical condition."

"OSHA is currently investigating the incident, and, based upon the evidence currently available to us, we fully expect that it will reach the same conclusion," the spokesperson said.

Broader probe on safety conditions 

The Amazon workers' deaths come as the company faces a broader probe by OSHA and federal prosecutors into safety conditions at multiple warehouses across the country. The civil investigation stems from various allegations involving workplace hazards at Amazon facilities, which the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York referred to the Department of Labor. OSHA representatives inspected Amazon warehouses in the Chicago, New York City and Orlando areas in late July. 

The civil division of the U.S. attorney's office is also investigating safety hazards at Amazon warehouses and "fraudulent conduct designed to hide injuries from OSHA and others," according to a spokesperson for the office.

An Amazon warehouse in Illinois collapsed in a tornado in December of last year. In April, OSHA said the warehouse "met minimal federal safety guidelines for storm sheltering."

The family of 26-year-old Austin McEwen, an Amazon delivery driver who was killed in the collapse, filed a lawsuit against the online retail giant in January. McEwen was one of six workers who were killed when an EF-3 tornado hit the 1.1-million-square-foot Amazon delivery depot in Edwardsville, Illinois on December 10.

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