EDWARDSVILLE – Illinois lawmakers said they are forming a task force to develop more safety recommendations after the 2021 tornado that killed six workers at an Amazon warehouse on Metro East.
The Warehouse Safety Standards Task Force will review whether regulations and building codes need to be updated to increase worker safety. Lawmakers leading the effort, including state representatives Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, and Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, said they would work with union, business and local government leaders, as well as the Illinois General Assembly and the Department of Labor to make recommendations.
“Everyone should have the right to a safe and healthy work environment and to return home unharmed at the end of each shift,” Stuart said in a statement. “I’m confident that by properly examining the issues unique to the warehousing industry, we can improve worker safety, reduce injuries and potentially save lives.”
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On December 10, 2021, a tornado with wind speeds between 136 and 165 mph hit an Amazon warehouse, causing the building to collapse and killing six people. The facility did not have a tornado shelter, but some workers who survived said they were directed to go to the restrooms at the north end of the warehouse.
Experts have said the building’s tilt-up design makes it more vulnerable to damage or collapse during tornadoes. But there are few regulations mandating tornado shelters and none mandating buildings that are more tornado-resistant, despite evidence that shelters save lives.
The 2021 collapse raised questions about safety, although OSHA issued no fines or subpoenas against Amazon, which drew criticism from members of Congress including US Rep. Cori Bush, D-St. Ludwig.
Amazon has long claimed that the warehouse it leases was built in accordance with all applicable building codes and passed city inspections in 2020.
The property’s owner, San Diego-based Realty Income Corp., rebuilt the warehouse, but the blueprints did not include a tornado shelter. The City of Edwardsville, meanwhile, adopted newer building codes that had not been updated since 2006.
The Illinois Task Force is expected to provide Governor JB Pritzker and the General Assembly with quarterly reports on its findings, discussions and decisions. According to a press release, a final report with recommendations is expected by January 1, 2025 at the latest.
“It is our responsibility to thoroughly review what happened and to take steps to ensure nothing like this happens again,” Hoffman said in a statement.