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OSHA investigating deadly collapse at Ill. Amazon facility hit by tornado

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OSHA investigating deadly collapse at Ill. Amazon facility hit by tornado
OSHA on Monday announced it is investigating the deaths of six Amazon employees at a facility in Edwardsville, Ill., after it was struck by a tornado on Friday. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 13 (UPI) -- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has opened a probe into the deadly collapse at an Illinois Amazon facility that was struck by a tornado over the weekend, the agency said Monday.

OSHA has had compliance officers at the Amazon complex in Edwardsville, Ill., since Saturday to provide assistance after six people died and one was hospitalized as one of 30 tornadoes that tore through the region struck the facility on Friday, agency representative Scott Allen told The Hill.

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The agency has six months to complete its investigation, including issuing citations and proposing monetary violations if safety or health violations are found, Allen added.

The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning at 8:06 p.m., about 23 minutes before the tornado hit Edwardsville.

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Amazon representative Alisa Caroll told The Hill that the onsite team at the facility "immediately moved to ensure all team members went to the designated shelter in place locations" as soon as the tornado warning came in.

The facility opened in July 2020 and employs about 190 people across several shifts, according to Amazon.

Worker's rights group the Athena Coalition said it had seen reports on social media of Amazon drivers claiming they were incentivized to drive during the tornado warning and that Amazon may have been maintaining a shift change amid the storm "maximizing danger."

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The group called for an outside investigation.

"Given Amazon's history having workers work through emergency conditions across the country, as well as normal disregard for worker safety, we require immediate answers from Amazon," the Athena Coalition wrote.

Amazon representative Kelly Nantel told CNBC the company was working with the agency in the investigation.

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"OSHA investigates all workplace fatalities and we are supporting them," Nantel said.

Nantel previously said the company was focusing on working to "provide support to our employees and partners in the area" shortly after the deaths were reported.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their loved ones and everyone impacted by the tornado. We also want to thank all the first responders for their ongoing efforts on the scene," she said.

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