Two downstate Illinois state representatives are working to create a Warehouse Safety Standards Task Force in the wake of the deadly structural collapse of an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville during a tornado in December 2021.
Reps. Katie Stuart (D-Edwardsville) and Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea) are working to create a task force “aimed at developing recommendations to make similar workplaces safer moving forward,” according to a press release they jointly released yesterday.
Six people were killed when a tornado that was predicted as much as a day earlier touched down and struck an Amazon warehouse that collapsed on people still inside. Clifford Law Offices represents Austin McEwen, a 26-year-old driver for Amazon, who was killed when Amazon officials failed to instruct workers and employees what to do in the midst of the disaster.
“These state representatives are to be commended for taking warehouse safety seriously,” said Jack J. Casciato, partner at Clifford Law Offices who is working on the case. “These deaths were preventable and proactive steps need to be taken to oversee that companies are doing the right thing.”
According to the state reps’ press release, the newly created Warehouse Safety Standards Task Force will consider questions regarding regulations and building codes with relevant stakeholders, including representatives from labor, business, local governments, the General Assembly, and the Department of Labor. The group is expected to provide quarterly reports of its findings, discussions, and decisions to the Governor and General Assembly, with a final report of recommendations due no later than Jan. 1, 2025.
“’Everyone should have the right to a safe and healthy working environment and to return home unharmed at the end of each shift,’ Stuart said. ‘However, recent events have shown that more is required to ensure that warehouse workers are not subjected to avoidable hazards and that their employers are held accountable for meeting acceptable standards of health and safety. That’s why we created this task force. I’m hopeful that by closely studying the issues unique to the warehouse industry, we can improve the safety of workers, reduce injuries and potentially save lives.’”
The press release goes on to say, “’The tragedy at the Amazon warehouse was a devastating moment for our community, and those who were impacted remain in our thoughts,’ Hoffman said. ‘It’s our responsibility to thoroughly review what happened and take action to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again. Our state has seen a lot of warehouse development in recent years, let’s make sure these are safe workplaces for all employees.’”
The Warehouse Safety Standards Task Force was initially proposed under House Bill 1563 and was passed and signed by Governor Pritzker as part of a larger package in Senate Bill 1720 earlier this month.