As temperatures drop and snowflakes start to fall, most of us bundle up and hunker down indoors, but for Amazon’s vast logistics network, our busiest season is underway. The arrival of winter weather creates a unique set of challenges that require careful planning and execution with one top priority: safety. Amazon’s European Workplace Health & Safety Director, Julie Cowlishaw-Ellison, and her team work to plan and execute various initiatives that ensure safe operations in winter weather conditions. Here are some frequently asked questions – answered by Julie - about Amazon’s winter readiness in Europe.
Q: Severe winter weather is just around the corner, and in some places, has already arrived. Can you share how you and your team prepare Amazon for harsh winter conditions?
A: Our approach to preparing for any severe weather is anticipating all possibilities to minimise risk and help keep everyone safe. As you can imagine, winter weather is one of the largest disruptors to our logistics partners’ operations, which is why we leverage meteorology to inform our own and our partners’ operations network. We train our employees to use predictive forecasting and we share it with partners so they’re ready to respond safely and effectively to diverse weather conditions. Teams across Amazon’s transportation network are in constant communication with critical incident departments, enabling comprehensive incident tracking and response planning. This, paired with closely monitoring travel advisories, informs adjustments to delivery routes, along with changes or reductions to the shifts of employees working at our operations sites. We communicate in real-time with delivery partners before, during, and after weather events, so they have the latest forecasts and mitigation plans, and the same goes for leadership teams on-site. In addition to these adjustments, we follow thresholds outlined by health and safety authorities around opening and closing operations during inclement weather – prioritising safety above all else.
Q: How does Amazon equip employees to adeptly handle winter conditions? What kind of measures are they taking?
A: In preparation for winter, we ensure we have the right equipment and gear for various weather conditions for employees in our buildings where winter weather is anticipated. For instance, Amazon equips operation sites’ employees, who work indoors and outdoors, with winter-weather apparel, including gloves, hats, outerwear, hand warmers and ice cleats. While all of our operations sites are climate-controlled, some employees work predominantly outdoors. As such, if temperatures drop below freezing, they’re required to take breaks inside warm indoor areas, and we ensure they are using the aforementioned supplies.
Q: What about the partners and delivery drivers?
A: One of the ways we cooperate with our partners is the severe weather warnings and safety alert functionality of the Amazon Delivery App. This new safety mechanism informs whenever the weather forecast changes significantly from the previous day, as well as if there are potential weather hazards like strong wind, snowfalls, frozen ice, or dense fog. While ultimately our partners are the best judge of the actual conditions, at our end, we make sure that the known local conditions are considered (i.e. heavy snowfall) in suggested routes.
In addition, Delivery Service Partners (DSPs) prepare for the winter by taking typical winter preparation steps, such as fitting winter tires if required, ensuring vehicles have functioning heat, and by providing drivers with safety tips to support them while on the road. We require all DSP vehicles to have functioning heat. We value this greatly since we believe it would help ensure drivers have their vehicles as an option to warm up during their breaks, in addition to the list of indoor break spots, like gas stations or restaurants, which are also outlined in the Amazon Delivery App.
Q: Does Amazon provide any safety training to ensure people feel prepared for inclement weather?
A: Yes, we believe practice is key to preparedness. In addition to our mandatory safety trainings and site-wide drills, operations site leaders undergo training programmes and practice exercises covering various aspects of winter weather safety. This includes understanding risk factors for cold stress, recognising signs and symptoms of cold-related injuries and illnesses, and knowing how to report incidents promptly. Employees are also encouraged to reach out to their manager or HR if they have concerns about getting to or from work. Our DSPs are best placed to make the call and ask their on-road teams to return back to the station if at any time one of the drivers they engage with feels their health or safety is in jeopardy.
Q: Why are these measures so important to Amazon and its operations?
A: We are generally planning months in advance to ensure we are prepared for winter weather conditions and provide the safest possible working environment for our employees and partners at our sites. As winter weather begins to ramp up, Amazon's dedication to safety remains steadfast. We strive to be Earth's best employer, so the well-being of employees is critical. We expect such high standards from all our partners with their teams as well. Amazon recognises its broad responsibility and aims to set the standard for safety in the industry.