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Amazon’s workplace safety chief to depart next month, memo says

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A employee sorts out parcels within the outbound dock at Amazon success center in Eastvale, California on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021.

Watchara Phomicinda | MediaNews Group | The Riverside Press-Enterprise via Getty Images

Amazon’s top executive overseeing workplace health and safety is leaving the corporate next month, CNBC has learned.

Heather MacDougall, who joined Amazon in 2019 from the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, is departing the corporate on Oct. 7, in response to a memo that John Felton, Amazon’s head of operations, wrote to employees on Monday.

“After constructing with us for over three years as a crucial member of our leadership team, Heather has decided to pursue other opportunities outside Amazon,” Felton wrote within the memo, which was viewed by CNBC. “I need to thank her for her many contributions, and I wish her well on the subsequent step in her journey.”

An Amazon spokesperson confirmed MacDougall’s departure.

MacDougall oversaw the health and safety of Amazon’s global workforce of 1.5 million-plus employees at an important period. In early 2020, as Covid-19 was spreading rapidly, causing businesses and office buildings to temporarily shutter, Amazon’s warehouse and delivery employees continued to report back to work as consumer demand soared for rapid delivery.

Employees criticized the corporate’s coronavirus response, arguing it wasn’t doing enough to guard them on the job, and Amazon has faced widespread scrutiny over the injury rates in its warehouses. Employees, labor groups and lawmakers have complained that the corporate prioritizes speed over safety, which puts employees at the next risk of injury than rivals. Workplace safety concerns are one major impetus behind the recent organizing wave at Amazon warehouses.

Amazon has disputed reports of unsafe working conditions. During MacDougall’s tenure, the corporate set ambitious goals to cut back injuries, including a plan to chop recordable incident rates, an OSHA measurement covering injury and illness, by half by 2025. Last 12 months Amazon committed to turn into “Earth’s Best Employer,” adding it to its list of corporate values, whilst labor unrest intensified.

Prior to her tenure at Amazon, MacDougall served two terms as the top of the OSHRC, a federal agency charged with reviewing workplace health and safety disputes between employers and the Labor Department. She was appointed to guide the agency by the Obama administration in 2013.

MacDougall also forged ties with high-profile safety organizations to burnish Amazon’s safety image. In June 2021, Amazon and the National Safety Council announced a partnership to focus on the reduction of sprains and strains commonly suffered by warehouse employees.

Becky Gansert, who serves as vp of worldwide specialty success, will replace MacDougall as head of worldwide workplace health and safety. Gansert may also oversee Amazon’s learning and development teams, that are charged with “improving the on a regular basis experience” of warehouse and delivery employees, amongst other tasks.

“Safety and the general associate experience are priorities which can be intricately linked, and Becky is uniquely qualified to maneuver us forward with each,” Felton said.

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