A former Amazon worker is suing the American firm after suffering agonising back pain which made him ‘middle-aged’ before his time.
Rhys Owen, 21, from Bedford, landed a £7 per hour Christmas job at the internet giant’s Marston Gate warehouse but claims the punishing target-driven work has left him needing up to five painkillers a day.
Mr Owen, who kept fit play-ing football, can no longer bend down to tie his laces after just two weeks picking around 1,100 items, or 1.8 items per minute, each day.
He said: ‘In the first week I was 60 per cent and the second week I was 80 per cent, but I was hitting my targets on speed. But my back had started to become painful in the mid to lower section whenever I bent down to look in bins for items even though I was only bent over for 10 to 15 seconds at a time.”
Despite taking baths and trying to get more sleep, by the beginning of the third week Mr Owen felt sharp stabbing pains in his back and struggled to stand after bending, which drove him to consult a doctor.
Warehouse staff carry electronic devices which tell them where the next item is located, and counts down the seconds they have to find it.
Mr Owen said: “Everyone is rushing round just to reach their targets. There were people there with blisters on their feet. A woman of 45 I was working with, her feet were bleeding. I’ve done a few jobs, but never a job like this.”
He is now suing for damages for personal injury and financial losses as a result of his employment.
Taking up his case is JMW Solicitors, of Manchester.
The firm’s head of industrial disease Andrew Lilley, said: “It appears from what we have been told the working conditions Rhys faced during his brief time at Amazon’s fulfilment centre have caused him the sort of repetitive strain-related back injury we’d expect to see in someone approaching middle age, which does send the signal that something isn’t right with the working environment.
“Rhys is entitled to make a claim for his injury and I look forward to helping him get the compensation he deserves.”
A spokesman for Amazon said: “We wouldn’t wish to comment on individual members of our workforce.”