Two dozen Amazon workers were taken to the hospital with respiratory injuries after a warehouse machine punctured a can of bear repellant, sending noxious fumes into a section of its Robbinsville, New Jersey facility.
At least one of the injured Amazon workers in the 1.3-million-square-foot fulfillment center at the time of the incident was in critical condition. Most of those injured reported they had difficulty breathing, and burning in their eyes, throat, and chest.
Someone from the New Jersey Amazon facility placed a 911 call on the morning of Wednesday, Dec. 5, reporting the incident. Emergency responders arriving at the Amazon facility found about 80 workers in various states of distress after being exposed to the bear repellent spray.
Investigators said in a preliminary report that the bear repellant fell off a shelf, but later reports clarified that an automated machine punctured a nine-ounce can of the bear repellant.
“Today at our Robbinsville fulfillment center, a damaged aerosol can dispensed strong fumes in a contained area of the facility,” Amazon spokesman Rachael Lighty said in a statement.
“The safety of our employees is our top priority, and as such, all employees in that area have been relocated to a safe place and employees experiencing symptoms are being treated on-site,” she added. “As a precaution, some employees have been transported to local hospitals for evaluation and treatment. We appreciate the swift response of our local responders.”
Bear repellent is like a large can of pepper spray. Amazon sells several varieties of the aerosol sprays, which can shoot several feet and create a fog. The spray is intended to prevent a bear attack, but several Amazon customers say they also use it to stop dogs and other animals from attacking.