OSHA to Investigate After Robot Punctures Bear Spray Can, Sickening Workers at New Jersey Amazon Warehouse - NBC 10 Philadelphia

OSHA to Investigate After Robot Punctures Bear Spray Can, Sickening Workers at New Jersey Amazon Warehouse

Accidental discharge of bear repellent sickens workers at Amazon Fulfillment Center in Robbinsville, New Jersey. The federal investigation into the incident could take months.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NJ Amazon Workers Sickened From Bear Spray Can

    More than four dozen workers became sick Wednesday morning after a can of bear repellent was punctured by an automated machine. The Amazon warehouse in Robbinsville, New Jersey immediately evacuated everyone out of the affected areas.

    (Published Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018)

    What to Know

    • More than 50 people reported feeling ill and 24 were hospitalized after bear spray was released at a New Jersey Amazon facility.

    • A spokesperson for the town of Robbinsville says the third-floor south entrance was evacuated after a robot punctured the can.

    • OSHA will investigate the incident. It could take months for the final report to be ready.

    Federal officials will review an accident in which an automated machine punctured a can of bear repellent at an Amazon warehouse in New Jersey, releasing fumes that sickened more than 50 workers and sent two dozen to hospitals.

    The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's investigation into Wednesday's accident could take up to six months to complete.

    Twenty-four of the workers were taken to hospitals, where most were treated and released later Wednesday. One woman who had been in critical condition was expected to be released Thursday.

    About 30 other workers were treated at the fulfillment center in Robbinsville. Most reported difficulty breathing or burning in their throats or eyes.

    Officials say the machine damaged a 9-ounce can of bear repellent containing a concentrated amount of capsaicin, an active component of chili peppers. The fumes were contained in one part of the 1.3-million-square-foot building's third floor.

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    Amazon released a brief statement: "Today at our Robbinsville fulfillment center, a damaged aerosol can dispensed strong fumes in a contained area of the facility. The safety of our employees is our top priority, and as such, all employees in that area have been relocated to safe place and employees experiencing symptoms are being treated onsite," said the statement from Rachael Lighty, regional manager of external communications for Amazon Operations.

    Lighty released another statement Wednesday night reporting that all of the impacted employees have been or are expected to be released from the hospital within the next 24 hours.

    "The safety of our employees is always our top priority and a full investigation is already underway," Lighty wrote. "We’d like to thank all of the first responders who helped with today’s incident.”

    Amazon sells multiple brands of bear repellent on its site in can sizes as big as 10 ounces.

    Bear spray contains ingredients similar to pepper sprays used for personal defense. Strong enough to stop a bear, it is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency.