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The hazards of warehouse work

Warehouse and transportation workers have the second highest number of occupational deaths and the third highest rate of worker injuries, according to a new report cited by Kari Lydersen at Working In These Times.

Warehouse and trucking were on OSHA’s list of occupations with the highest hazards, according to the report by researchers at Occidental College and the University of Southern California (pdf). In addition to high rates of injury, health hazards include exposure to diesel emissions and heat stress in warehouses and trucks that often lack air conditioning.

Earlier this year a survey by Arise Chicago found that many low-wage immigrant workers did not know about OSHA – or that health and safety complaints are confidential and legally protect (see previous post).

The Chicago area has a vast and fast-growing logistics industry, increasingly concentrated around Joliet. With six national rail lines converging here, the area has 25 intermodal facilities – the highest concentration in the nation — and 300 warehouses employing about 150,000 warehouse workers, according to the report.

The largely Latino and African American workforce tends to be hired through temporary agencies with few benefits, and often for poverty-level wages, according to the report.

The report notes the work of Warehouse Workers for Justice in the Joliet area, along with groups working to address community impacts (including the Will County Residents for Responsible Intermodal Development and the Englewood Community and Family Task Force) and the Illinois Coalition to Clean Up Diesel Pollution.

Globalization has shifted manufacturing overseas and “produced a new generation of contingent workers” in a burgeoning logistics industry whose infrastructure is heavily subsidized by public investment, according to the report.

“International trade has generated new jobs” but “they have been accompanied by a visible price tag, including negative environmental, health, labor, and community consequences and an economic development scenario that encourages the growth of a low-wage workforce,” according to the report.

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Category: labor, Will County

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