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Do Not Call 911! The Life and Death of an Amazon Warehouse Temp (huffingtonpost.com) 284

theodp writes: Earlier this week, Amazon sicced former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on the NY Times and the ex-Amazon employees that were interviewed for the NYT's brutal August 2015 article about Amazon's white-collar workplace culture. So, one can hardly wait to see how Amazon and Carney will respond to The Life and Death of an Amazon Warehouse Temp, Dave Jamieson's epic new HuffPo piece on what the future of low-wage work really looks like. Jamieson tells the heartbreaking tale of Jeff Lockhart Jr., who through some workforce sleight-of-hand was working-at-Amazon-but-not-entitled-to-Amazon-benefits when he met his maker after he collapsed in aisle A-215 of Amazon's Chester, VA fulfillment center and laid unconscious beneath shelves stocked with Tupperware and heating pads.

Lockhart, whose white work badge distinguished him as a member of the Integrity Staffing Solutions temp worker caste as opposed to a blue-badged Amazon employee (Google yellow-badged its benefits-less temp workers), sadly left behind a wife and three kids, the oldest of which is legally blind. Jamieson writes, "Whoever found Jeff on the third floor apparently alerted Amcare, Amazon's in-house medical team, which is staffed with EMTs and other medical personnel. In the event of a health issue, Amazon instructs workers to notify security before calling emergency services. An employee brochure from a facility in Tennessee, obtained through a public records request, reads: 'In the event of a medical emergency, contact Security. Do Not call 911! Tell Security the nature of the medical emergency and location. Security and/or Amcare will provide emergency response.'" If you're pressed for reading time, Salon's Scott Timberg has a nice TL;DR recap.

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Do Not Call 911! The Life and Death of an Amazon Warehouse Temp

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 24, 2015 @02:56PM (#50793991)

    Security does the same where I work. Call them first get trained medical personnel there faster and then they direct 911 since the place is so damn huge the ambulance could have serious issues finding the person who needs help.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 24, 2015 @03:36PM (#50794219)

      Exactly what I was thinking and I worked on a large campus behind multiple security man traps. It was a maze of you weren't familiar. We had the same policy. Security would coordinate emergency response and open doors that would allow emergency personnel access.

    • 911 Call (Score:5, Informative)

      by theodp ( 442580 ) on Saturday October 24, 2015 @03:46PM (#50794267)

      From the article: "It isn't clear from any of the official reports on Jeffâ(TM)s deathâ"Amazon's, the county's or the state'sâ"how quickly Jeff was found and treated. The Amazon report says that he was discovered at âoeapproximately 2:30 a.m., which is within one minute of his last reported pick.â Yet according to a county EMS report, the 911 call came in at 2:39 a.m., suggesting he may have been down for several minutes before he was found. Amazon said CPR and the defibrillator were "quickly provided" by its in-house team. However, the ambulance didnâ(TM)t get there until 2:49 a.m.â"nearly 20 minutes after his last apparent pick, a significant amount of time in a cardiac emergency."

      • Let's take the times at face value.

        Someone called 911 9 minutes after his discovery. Since no one is allowed to call 911, presumably the call was made by security who are trained to perform EMS function and Basic Life Support.

        EMS arrived 10 minutes after they were called.

        Therefore (hypothetically) security was able to start basic life support faster than if EMS was called directly.

        • Everywhere I've worked we have been advised not to call 911, to call the emergency line instead. The justification given is the inability of 911 to trace your call (i.e. it may look like it's coming from wherever corporate headquarters are, in another state). I've never been anywhere that you were forbidden and your job would be forfeit. I've resolved to do both if the need ever arose... but I don't honestly think our security wouldn't do everything they could to get help quickly.

    • by MerlynEmrys67 ( 583469 ) on Saturday October 24, 2015 @03:54PM (#50794301)
      I'm not even in a large office building. Imagine you call 911 and say please come to the door of "Company". Firetruck shows up goes to the front desk and they don't even begin to know where to send them. Calling security/front desk lets someone who isn't paniced fill in the details on where to go and how to get them to the site of the problem. Complaining that Amazon says to contact security first is stupid and shows that the person writing the article has never worked in a corporate environment in their life or they wouldn't write it up this way...
      • In my workplace of several thousand people spread over a complex of 10+ sprawling buildings, calls to 911 get piped directly to security so as to prevent the chance of an ambulance showing up without the guards knowing to let them through the gate.
    • Exactly. In my university it's the same. It's not with nefarious intent. But I can call campus security and report an accident in building so, and so in room such. It means something for campus security who can get someone there quickly both because of close location and because of their familiarity with the location. They are in a better position to contact and guide emergency personnel to the proper location. It avoids confusion and can save lives.

    • Same with me at a previous employer in a large facility. We had our own fire department, too. No need to wait around hoping that the city's emergency system could even find me (after they got through security). What a pathetic hit piece. Or at least the summary thereof. I'd read it, but no need to send traffic HuffPo's way.
    • by Macman408 ( 1308925 ) on Saturday October 24, 2015 @05:05PM (#50794607)

      Yes, this and many other things. I volunteer on my company's Emergency Response Team, so I get some exposure to this sort of thing. There are many reasons why they have you call security first:
      1. Security is much closer. Even for us, where the fire truck and ambulance are only a block away, Security (and the ERT) can respond at least 3 or 4 minutes faster.
      2. Security has a "go bag" that contains a defibrillator, oxygen, and a lot of other useful equipment.
      3. If you call from an office phone, the address that shows up at the 911 center is our main visitor entrance. We have about 15 different buildings, and if you go to the wrong one, it'll take you an extra 5 minutes to drive to the correct one. Security knows how to direct 911 to the right place if you call them first, because they know to ask you which building and which cubicle you are located in.
      4. Security can meet the ambulance. They get their vehicle out to the street to meet the ambulance and escort them to the door that is closest to the emergency. Then, they can provide access to the building and escort them directly to the emergency, since all entrances are normally locked.
      5. Not all emergencies are necessarily worth calling 911, and Security has training on which ones are likely to be critical. Obviously, if someone is unconscious or not breathing, 911 should be called immediately (and that should be communicated to Security). But what if someone is just feeling a little off? Our company has a list of about 10 things that we must dial 911 for (things like chest pain, loss of consciousness, etc.); other things are up to our judgement as to their severity - but with the knowledge that it's always better to call 911 and be wrong about it being an emergency. The ambulance will show up for free, they only charge you if you go away with them.

      At my company, Security is pretty much always the first on the scene, since they're always communicating via radio. A couple minutes later, people with some basic medical training (first aid, CPR, AED) from the ERT show up after getting an E-mail/phone/SMS page. And a few minutes after that, the ambulance arrives. That's even the case when somebody calls 911 from their cell phone (as long as they eventually call security too) - it's better to get our first responders on site early and get everything prepared for the ambulance to arrive, rather than to have the ambulance wandering the parking lot trying to find the emergency.

    • Also, the bit about badge colors is somewhat suggestive. Many companies issue different color badges to staff and temps.
    • I'm glad I'm not the first one to say this. The on-site medical can triage, determine what is needed, and if necessary get EMS dispatched to the correct door with someone waiting to direct them in.

      The article did make it clear that the on-site medical staff were sometimes insufficient.

      You don't know if a person on the floor hit their head on something, passed out from exhaustion or low blood sugar, or (worst case) having a cardiac emergency. Rest and a candy bar doesn't require the waste of EMS resources

      • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Saturday October 24, 2015 @09:35PM (#50795645) Homepage Journal

        You don't know if a person on the floor hit their head on something, passed out from exhaustion or low blood sugar, or (worst case) having a cardiac emergency. Rest and a candy bar doesn't require the waste of EMS resources. A bumped head can be a low priority dispatch.

        When someone loses consciousness, you cannot assume that it is a low-priority problem. It is always better to have an EMS response, and have them examine the person and determine that the person will be okay than to not have an EMS response and have the person die while waiting for the security people to call for EMS.

        The employees followed a reasonable procedure. If the numbers posted above are correct, then Amazon's security staff did not. The moment they heard that there was a medical emergency with someone collapsed, they should have called on their radio to all internal first responders, but afterwards, they should have been on the phone to 911 within thirty seconds. Any delay longer than that is inexcusable.

        You don't wait until your first responders get there. You stay on the line with 911 until your first responders get there, and if they determine that no ambulance is needed, you inform the 911 operator that they can cancel the call (which they may or may not do, depending on what your first responders said, but at that point, you've done your job either way).

    • by jcr ( 53032 )

      Same at Apple. If you call 911, they'll take longer to reach you than Apple security would.

      -jcr

      • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

        The difference is that AFAIK, Apple calls 911 in parallel, not in series (presumably after security gets there and fails to resuscitate the person).

  • by dfenstrate ( 202098 ) <[dfenstrate] [at] [gmail.com]> on Saturday October 24, 2015 @03:00PM (#50794009)

    You don't call 911 because at large and complex sites, other employees are required to guide emergency services in to the particular location of the injured or ill person. In addition, these sites- as the summary suggests- have their own EMTs in order to bridge the extra time required for the Ambulance to arrive.

    It's not some sleazy cost saving measure.
    Security calls 911 right after they send the site EMT to the scene, and then they send another employee to bring the Ambulance crew to the right spot. Why would you think you could call the city EMTs and adequately describe, (for a 500,000 sq ft + facitlity), the correct location and entrance to use? And what makes you think the dispatcher could then accurately relay this information to the Ambulance EMTs/Paramedics ?

    • by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Saturday October 24, 2015 @03:18PM (#50794113)

      I can verify that getting to the emergency location can be a problem in a number of large corporate worksites, and some sites do have competent personal who can get there _much faster_ with preliminary support, for electrical issues that may require shutting down power, for flooding, and even for CPR and other urgent medical issues. I applaud their efforts, and I've even been the helpful co-worker when an employee had a heart attack, and we got the victim to where the ambulance could help them immediately, shaving roughly 15 minutes off the time to the hospital for the patient.

      However, calling "corporate security" first is also an opportunity to hide illegal immigrant workers, clean up the scene of unsafe conditions, get stories straight about any mistakes that may have triggered the accident, and limit employer liability, and to control the rumor mill. It can certainly be abused.

      • Why not call both? You're acting like the paramedics who rush out there have zero clue how to get a hold of local security.

        I work at a university campus - local security work closely with the police and they know to get a hold of them and absolutely rely on them to direct the real paramedics/police to the situation.

        • Why not call both?

          Because you can't, you can only call one at a time. So who do you call first? Security.
          Now once that is done you can offload the task of directing people while you as first on scene can control the issue as best as you can. This is first aid 101. You are the most important person in this person's life and you shouldn't waste your time on the phone unless you absolutely have to (if no one comes to your aid when you shout then you call 911, if someone comes tell them to call 911).

          Also yes I've worked on site

      • There is no employer liability. If he was working for a staffing agency it's the staffing agencies responsibility. In fact, if he complained about unsafe work (which in Ontario at least, you supposedly have a "right to refuse unsafe work") they could just let him go with no cause because temp contracts have a clause saying you agree to be let go for any reason with no recourse.

        Couple this up with the fact that almost all factory/manufacturing jobs are now hired through agencies and all those labour laws th
    • by khasim ( 1285 )

      It's not some sleazy cost saving measure.

      It can be.

      I worked for a company where HQ was in one city and the warehouse was in a different city.

      Through the magic of VoIP, the calls from the warehouse went through HQ. Which is a problem when the 911 people look up the location of the phone number.

      Since the company was NOT going to spend the money to run 911 calls from the warehouse to their local 911 center (or even to have the phone numbers show up correctly), the people in the warehouse were told to call 911

    • by Guspaz ( 556486 )

      We have a similar rule at the convention centre that I run events at. It's a huge building, there are tons of entrances, and if you call 911 yourself, you're just going to cause a big delay in the EMTs getting to the right place. Instead, you call venue security, and they will act as the first responder and call 911 and figure out the best entrance to get them to the right place.

      The "don't call 911" rule is normal and needed for big facilities.

    • by the_nightwulf ( 1003306 ) on Saturday October 24, 2015 @03:49PM (#50794279)

      Former security dispatcher for a large complex of manufacturing plants here, and this is absolutely correct. We know which of the multiple entry gates the ambulance should use to get to the complainant in the most efficient manner, and it isn't necessarily the one the reporting party uses to get to work every day (likely the only one he/she knows). We know the physical addresses of those gates, which few other people do, so emergency respondents know exactly where to go.

      We contact the appropriate response (not always "911" -- usually more efficient to call the ambulance service directly) immediately. A guy with a broken finger doesn't need or want all of the response 911 will bring. Large-scale incidents, confined space rescues, etc.? That's when you want the whole cavalry. Often one dispatcher would initiate the ambulance response while another was still talking with the reporting party, so any questions about the complainant's condition could be answered.

      We then work on the logistics of getting the response to the complainant. This usually involved sending one roving security unit to actually find the complainant, and another to the gate to escort the ambulance to the proper location. Once the first unit assessed the situation, they could advise the other via radio of exactly where to bring the ambulance. Depending on the response gate and time of the incident, we might also advise the local rail services to hold traffic. During times of heavy truck traffic, we'd advise the guards at gates in the ambulance's path to hold traffic, so there wasn't a mile-long line of semi trucks blocking the way.

      Everyone involved was very well-trained and incidents almost always ran like clockwork. You know when they didn't? When someone called 911 directly and an ambulance showed up at a gate and no one in security knew anything about it.

    • I work at Kennedy Space Center and we are instructed to call internal emergency if there is a problem. If you call 911 it gets routed outside and the response will take much longer.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by AK Marc ( 707885 )
        If inside doesn't have an ambulance, you need to call 911 first. Then, when 911 is called, and the "real" response is on the way, call the security and let them know 911 is on the way for a medical emergency. They can send something too, or not. But delaying an ambulance response to satisfy security's power trip is a bad decision.
        • If inside doesn't have an ambulance, you need to call 911 first. Then, when 911 is called, and the "real" response is on the way, call the security and let them know 911 is on the way for a medical emergency. They can send something too, or not. But delaying an ambulance response to satisfy security's power trip is a bad decision.

          Do you have any experience handling medical calls at a large facility?

        • by Cederic ( 9623 )

          But delaying an ambulance response to satisfy security's power trip is a bad decision.

          Delaying an ambulance response because their crew haven't the slightest fucking idea how to find you on-site and they came in the wrong fucking entrance and there was another ambulance station that could've responded quicker had you just fucking called security and let them provide professional guidance is a bad decision.

          • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

            This. I used to work with a couple of folks who were once part of the emergency response team at Apple. Here's what I learned from conversations with them.

            If you call 911 from any Apple corporate phone in Santa Clara Valley, unless they've changed things in the last few years, the address that comes up on the 911 switchboard is 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino. That's definitely true for the entire main campus, and I think it is also true for the satellite offices. If you're at one of their Sunnyvale offices

          • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
            So if you call security second, security will not guide the ambulance correctly and blame you? I'm glad I don't work at some place as murderous as you do.
        • by HJED ( 1304957 )

          If inside doesn't have an ambulance, you need to call 911 first. Then, when 911 is called, and the "real" response is on the way, call the security and let them know 911 is on the way for a medical emergency. They can send something too, or not. But delaying an ambulance response to satisfy security's power trip is a bad decision.

          Its clear from the this post that you've had absolutely no first aid training whatsoever. Even someone trained in basic first aid getting there a couple of seconds faster can save lives, security will call the emergency services and guide them to the correct location. If they are remotely competent they will do this faster then you can, whilst allowing you to provide first aid to the person.
          If you have three other people with you that is the only time you should consider calling security and an ambulance,

          • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
            I have first aid training and am a fire fighter. Care to lie some more ad hominem? In this case, security delayed calling in outside help by 10 minutes. The first person on the scene should have called 911 directly and given the dead person more of a chance.
    • I work at Intel at one of their major fabs in the Arizona desert.

      Our emergency procedures are virtually identical to Amazon's, and our corporate health services explains why: Our facility is huge (the campus is probably a square mile in size, and the buildings are around 100,000 to 200,000 ft^2 each), and the nearest fire station or ambulance station is about a mile away. As a result it will take the local paramedics a long time to arrive and render aid. It is much faster to call our internal emergency resp

    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Saturday October 24, 2015 @04:59PM (#50794563)

      It's not some sleazy cost saving measure.

      In fact, the sleazy cost-saving measure would be to fire all the company's EMTs and medical staff, and tell all employees to just call 911 and wait for the city's EMTs to arrive.

    • "St. Francis Children's Hospital employees instructed not to call 911!"

    • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

      "building X, room Y", not that hard.

  • Right call (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 24, 2015 @03:17PM (#50794109)

    As much as I love bashing Amazon for its cruel working conditions, I don't see anything wrong with not calling 911. If they have a trained EMT team on location, then it's the right thing to call them, instead. We have the same policy in our office.
    The local team should then immediately call 911., And if I look at the response time (20 min), then they probably did this. 20 min to a remote location like an industrial plant or warehouse is not excessive. In fact, kudos to Amazon for having properly trained and equipped EMTs!

    • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

      Most companies' policies say "Call security first, and then, if you feel that it is urgent to do so, you can call 911 second, but you don't have to." That's the right policy. If corporate security calls them also, the 911 dispatchers will recognize that two people are calling about the same incident, and they'll handle it appropriately by telling you that corporate security has already called them, and an ambulance has been dispatched.

  • by seven of five ( 578993 ) on Saturday October 24, 2015 @03:35PM (#50794213)
    Several if not all of the Amazon warehouses now use robots [youtube.com] to move shelves to the pickers, instead of the pickers running to the shelves. The sad story of a hard-working Joe who wanted to feed his family & died on the job is becoming the sad story of even the crappy jobs disappearing.
  • by SensitiveMale ( 155605 ) on Saturday October 24, 2015 @03:42PM (#50794257)

    The "all corporations are evil" liberals immediately think and post that Amazon is trying to hide something and is using cost cutting to put their employees lives at risk.

    Now, if someone spends even a minute thinking about this first, they'll understand that Amazon, and other large companies, have gone to considerable expense to keep medical staff in house. That calling security first puts EMTs on the scene faster and sets up the environment for security to direct outside help to the scene.

  • We are instructed to call 911 first and then notify security. We are a local government, with actual police officers providing security and an EMS station on our campus, but we get help on the way and then let the officers, know we have a situation so they can prepare to bypass our security measures and guide the paramedics to the location of the problem. It also allows a path to be cleared to expedite the movement of the paramedics into and out of the building, and allows the police to clear out any specta
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mondragon ( 3537 )

      This is really 100% a logistics problem determined by both the size, layout, and "unusualness" of the establishment. For giant warehouses, dangerous manufacturing facilities, places with rail lines on site, etc., with multiple gates and physical building doors, the reason you don't call 911 is because you probably can't tell them anything useful about how to efficiently get to you, and once you call 911 the next call from the people who *do* know is possibly not going to go well (as they will instead try t

  • ok, so the article mentions and focuses on the "Don't call 911" implying that Amazon has something to hide there. It's almost instantly debunked. EMTs need security to tell them where to go on a big campus.

    Now nobody is discussing the more important issue of abusing temp workers status to get out of paying for healthcare and unemployment benefits (plus all the extra productivity you get by dangling the carrot of full time employment before your temps). Maybe a few do and then fall back on the "But He Ma
    • Nope, we'll ignore all that so we can pat ourselves on the back because we figured out one of the points the article makes is silly. It's amazing how easy it is to derail talk of worker's rights with a few well placed talking points :(...

      You've essentially already admitted that the 'journalist' made a sloppy, uneducated point about large campus 911 calls to score political points. What makes you think the rest of the article has any more substance or depth to it?

  • Solution: vital sign / location detectors so the overlords can watch their little dots walking around a map of the warehouse. I also suggest making them all wear clown masks.
  • This is normal (Score:5, Informative)

    by FrozenGeek ( 1219968 ) on Saturday October 24, 2015 @07:12PM (#50795173)

    Over the past 30 years (dang, that's a long time), I've worked at three multinationals. All three had this policy. It's unlikely that I happened upon three outliers, so I expect that this is the normal policy for large campuses. That being the case, if it was unreasonable, there would have been multiple large successful lawsuits and the lawyers for all the other big companies would have changed the policy. Large companies are risk-averse. The fact that this policy is still in place in many companies indicates that it is the right policy.

    I get really tired for people dumping on large companies without warrant. When they deserve to be slammed, let's slam them, but dumping on them when it is not warranted is just as evil as anything they do.

  • The article isn't about whether and when to call 9-1-1 and doesn't seem to be trying to dig up a conspiracy about it. So, clickbait strikes again.

    The article is more about the big picture, the common practice by employers of externalizing every cost they can get away with, which now and for the past 20-30 years includes having a workforce of humans. They will not take care of you. And there is a caste system. At Intel the badges are green, at Amazon, white, at Google red or yellow, at Microsoft, orange. No

    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

      That said (and it's hard to disagree with), that doesn't mean that calling 911 would result in the best and/or quickest medical treatment. In this particular case perhaps the policy is correct. I sort of depends on how they run their internal emergency handling. And if people are suspicious, I don't blame them, even if in this case they might be incorrect.

  • If I worked in a facility with it's own EMTs and medical staff, why would I call 911 when there's a medical emergency? Call the medical experts closest to the accident/problem... Duh.

    I realize many here will contort their thinking to blame Amazon for saying call the EMTs in the building, not the local fire department, convince themselves that calling 911 and waiting 10-15 minutes for help to arrive is somehow better than calling equally-well trained help on the next floor.

    • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

      Most folks are saying, "Blame Amazon for taking nine minutes between when he was discovered and when someone actually called 911 to get an ambulance dispatched." If the only reason for such a policy is to ensure that the ambulance gets dispatched to the right place, to have security ready to meet them, and to get the internal emergency personnel there while you wait for the ambulance, then a "call security first" policy is fine. If the reason behind it is to save money on ambulance calls by not calling t

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