Robbinsville Township, NJ – A robot tore a can of bear repellent spray in a warehouse and sickened as many as 80 Amazon workers and caused them to be hospitalized on Wednesday.
There were 24 Amazon workers hospitalized, including one in critical condition. And another 30 people were treated by emergency services at the warehouse, according to the British Broadcasting Corporation.
An investigation determined that an automated machine punctured a nine-ounce bear repellent can and released concentrated capsaicin, according to Amazon Spokesman John Nalbone. All the workers were released from the hospital within 24 hours, ABC News reported.
“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. As a precaution, some employees have been transported to local hospitals for evaluation and treatment,” an Amazon spokeswoman told ABC News in a statement.
Amazon said there was no threat to residents in the area and the bear spray fumes were limited to the south wing of the third floor of the warehouse, according to ABC News.
Amazon’s workers are not unionized, according to ABC News.
However, The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union warned about the dangers robots pose to human workers.
“Amazon’s automated robots put humans in life-threatening danger today, the effects of which could be catastrophic and the long-term effects for 80 plus workers are unknown,” union president Stuart Appelbaum said in a statement, according to ABC News. “The richest company in the world cannot continue to be let off the hook for putting hard working people’s lives at risk. Our union will not back down until Amazon is held accountable for these and so many more dangerous labor practices.”