I like to fact check stories. It's kind of a thing with me.

A few days ago, a newspaper in Pennsylvania reported that Amazon was forcing employees to work to the point of collapse in high heat, and that an emergency room doctor had to notify OSHA. http://goo.gl/RtNAM

Amazon's PR department got out and said:

I. 'the health and safety of our workers is our first priority'
II. '"On June 3, 2011, the Lehigh Valley area experienced unusual, extremely high temperatures...' http://goo.gl/4nH2v
III. 'July 2011 was a highly unusual month and set records for the hottest temperatures during any single calendar month in cities across the East Coast.' http://goo.gl/kwuNE (I also got this response from Amazon customer service)

Well, I can't check the first, but I can check the second and third claims.

When I read the Amazon story, one thing that came up again and again was that Amazon kept their loading dock doors closed during the summer.

Indoor loading docks, especially ones in warehouses, become ovens on hot days. I know – I used to unload trucks on an indoor dock in New England in the summer. Summers in southern New England and Pennsylvania are hot and humid (and I'm grateful to not have to endure them anymore!)

There are two ways to keep the heat down on a loading dock in summer. One's expensive, and one's cheap. The expensive solution? 1) install insulation and a massive AC system. The cheap one? 2) open the garage doors so you have ventilation.

For an example of (1), check out any CostCo in California. Go inside and look up at the ceiling. You'll see white padded insulation up high - everywhere. You'll also see massive air conditioning units, the big grey ducts that hang down. CostCo doesn't get hot unless something's broken. CostCo runs a warehouse right.

Now, perhaps Amazon didn't have (1) sufficient AC and insulation - it seems that way - but the place where I think they really messed up is that they didn't (2) open the dock doors.

Back to fact checking: Amazon's two claims above are:

1) June 3 was unusually hot.

2) July was record setting 'across New England.'

None of the news articles fact checked what the weather was like at the warehouse on those time periods, apparently.

So I did.

The warehouse is in Lehigh Valley / Allentown, Pennsylvania.

On June 3, the high temperature was 75º F http://goo.gl/RxJRj (Weather Underground) [update: NOAA says 77ºF at the airport nearby http://imgur.com/zEAUt ]

For the month of July, not a single day in Allentown set a record. July 1 was 82F, 16º below the record. http://goo.gl/qWMml

So was July 2. It reached 87F that day, 15º below the record. http://goo.gl/ly4An

In fact, you can see on the monthly graph for July that only two days broke 95F. But let's look at a sample of days from the rest of July:

July 7: http://goo.gl/FcUKt :10 degrees below record
July 14: http://goo.gl/EjuoF : 16 degrees below record
July 21: http://goo.gl/QMcOm : the hottest day in July 2011, 98ºF, 3 degrees below record

Looking further, every day of the month was below record, and of the five days I looked at, four were 10 or more degrees below.

Amazon is then falsely claiming record high temperatures - acts of god - are the issue. So it's then the building and its management that's left.

I cannot fact check that their warehouse design and operating practices led directly to the heat collapse of their employees, but that's how I'd bet.


[Originally shared with friends, reposted public by request. Added cites and made minor corrections to quotes. Made simple improvements to the prose]
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