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At least 24 Amazon workers hospitalized after accidental release of bear spray

  • Author: David Boroff, New York Daily News
  • Updated: December 6, 2018
  • Published December 6, 2018

Twenty-four Amazon workers were hospitalized, including one in critical condition, following the “accidental release” of bear repellent that fell off a shelf in a New Jersey warehouse.

About 30 other employees complained of difficulty breathing or burning in their throats following the incident on the third floor of the Amazon fulfillment center in Robbinsville Township early Wednesday. It was unclear exactly how many people were exposed.

Conveyor belt in an Amazon warehouse. (Bloomberg photo by Bess Adler)

The 24 employees were taken to five hospitals.

"It was isolated to that portion of the building," Robbinsville Township public information officer John Nalbone told the Daily News.

The 9-ounce can of the repellent was punctured by an automated machine, according to Nalbone.

Rachael Lighty of Amazon said in a statement that “a damaged aerosol can dispensed strong fumes in a contained area of the facility.”

"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," she said.

She added that Amazon appreciates "the swift response of our local responders."

Hundreds of workers are normally inside the building in Robbinsville during work days.

Employees at Amazon have complained in the past about working conditions at the company. Workers at a facility in Minnesota said earlier this year that they experienced exhaustion and dehydration with doing their jobs without the benefit of air conditioning.

Some Muslim employees who were observing a strict fast found the conditions particularly difficult.

"Recently, I couldn't work because I needed water," said East African worker Nimo Hirad through an interpreter. "I got so thirsty, I couldn't even swallow my saliva. I ended up breaking my fast and drinking water two days in a row."

The facility in Eagan said it received a few dozen complaints from workers.

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