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Amazon asked to assess insect invasion risks

13 August 2014

GMB, the union for staff at Amazon, is calling on the company to urgently conduct a risk assessment of the dangers to the health and safety of staff and potential damage to the UK economy of insect invasion in wood and other packaging of goods imported from abroad.

This call arises after a GMB member employed by Amazon in one of its depots fell ill after handling packaging on goods imported into the UK. The member is convinced that the illness is linked to insects carried in the packaging.

The union also cites that in May 2014 the Ecological Society of America showed that the emerald ash borer has been carried into North America in recent times with the wooden packing material of imported goods.

The Ecological Society said the infestation could cause over a billion dollars in damages annually over the next decade.

Jeff Beck, GMB Regional Officer in South Wales, said: "Amazon is in denial that insect invasion is even possible. GMB is not expert in this field but are aware that this stance is not sustainable.

"GMB want Amazon to undertake a proper risk assessment, involving proper experts in the field of insect invasion and health professionals, to come to conclusions on the threats invasions pose to the health and safety of members in their warehouses and to the wider economy.

"GMB want to see Amazon specify that suppliers and shippers use packaging materials that have been properly treated to prevent insect invasion.”

Amazon employs 7,000 permanent staff and about 10,000 casual staff in the UK. It also employs 5,000 seasonal staff. Amazon has operations in Croydon, Doncaster, Dunfermline, Gourock, Hemel Hempstead, Milton Keynes, Peterborough, Rugeley, Swansea, Slough and Holborn in London.

Amazon plans to double the number of warehouses it operates in Britain in the next three years.

GMB is also been vocal in its criticism of Amazon over the pay and working conditions of employees and the low contribution the company makes to the UK tax coffers.