EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is calling on Amazon to improve its severe weather emergency procedures after a tornado struck its warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois, and killed six people.

OSHA investigators determined Amazon’s procedures met the bare minimum for federal safety guidelines for storm sheltering and, therefore, would not fine the company. However, safety officials said Amazon should make improvements to protect its workers and contract drivers in case of future emergencies. OSHA does not have a standard for severe weather plans but offers recommendations to employers.

“Employers should re-evaluate their emergency plans for the safest shelter-in-place locations and prepare before an emergency to ensure workers know where to go and how to keep themselves safe in the event of a disaster,” said OSHA Regional Administrator William Donovan.

The OSHA report said five of those who died were taking shelter in a restroom in the southern portion of the building and were unaware the designated tornado shelter was a restroom in the northern portion of the building, indicated by a green rectangle in a Google Maps image.

An EF3 tornado hit the Amazon distribution center, located just off Interstate 255, on Dec. 10, 2021. Forty-five Amazon workers were able to get out of the warehouse safely, with one airlifted to a hospital for treatment. Six people were killed when the Amazon facility collapsed.

The victims were identified as 28-year-old Deandre S. Morrow of St. Louis; 62-year-old Kevin D. Dickey of Carlyle, Illinois; 29-year-old Clayton Lynn Cope of Alton, Illinois; 34-year-old Etheria S. Hebb of St. Louis; 46-year-old Larry E. Virden of Collinsville, Illinois; and 26-year-old Austin J. McEwen of Edwardsville.

Amazon is currently a defendant in a number of lawsuits tied to the tragedy. Attorneys for the victims’ families said the e-commerce giant acted with negligence in the construction of the building, a disregard for the workers’ lives, and did not heed severe weather warnings from area meteorologists prior to the tornado.

OSHA’s hazard alert letter sent to Amazon offers the following recommendations to improve worker safety at the Edwardsville warehouse:

  • Ensure all employees are provided training and participate in emergency weather drills
  • Include site-specific information in severe weather emergency plans
  • All audible warning devices and their locations should be clearly identified to employees and ready accessible.

OSHA said a megaphone that should have been used to activate a shelter-in-place announcement was locked in a cage and not accessible. According to OSHA, building integrity issues are generally addressed by local and state agencies that enforce building codes.

Amazon released the following statement Tuesday afternoon after the report was made public.

The storm in Edwardsville last fall was a tragedy and our teams on the ground continue to support our employees and the broader community as they work to recover. The tornado that hit our delivery station was extreme and very sudden, with winds that were much like the force of a category 4 hurricane, and we believe our team did the right thing, moving people to shelter as soon as the warning was issued.

Our buildings—including the Edwardsville delivery station—have emergency plans that identify exit routes and shelter areas. Employees receive emergency response training, and that training is reinforced throughout the year.

OSHA’s investigation did not find any violations or causes for citations, but we’re constantly looking to innovate and improve our safety measures and have already begun conducting additional safety and emergency preparedness drills at our sites and will carefully consider any OSHA recommendation that we have not already.

Kelly Nantel, Amazon spokesperson