Around 80 workers are being treated by emergency medical services after an incident at an Amazon warehouse in Robbinsville Township, New Jersey, a local official has confirmed.
A can of aerosol bear repellent exploded after falling off a shelf in the warehouse at about 8:50 Wednesday morning, according to John Nalbone, the communications and public information officer for Robbinsville Township.
About 80 people who reported having difficulty breathing and experiencing a burning sensation in the eyes and throat were treated by EMS on the scene. Roughly 20 of those people have been transferred or are in the process of being transferred to a local hospital. Bear repellent is mostly made of capsaicin, the spicy chemical found in hot peppers.
A Twitter account for the union representing the Robbinsville Fire Department said that seven ambulances and a medic responded to the incident.
Officials determined that the entire warehouse did not need to be evacuated, and the affected area is being ventilated.
“Today at our Robbinsville fulfillment center, a damaged aerosol can dispensed strong fumes in a contained area of the facility,” Amazon spokesperson Rachael Lighty told Business Insider in a statement. “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. We appreciate the swift response of our local responders.”
The company has come under fire for its workplace practices before. A report released earlier this year by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, a private nonprofit worker advocacy group, named Amazon as one of its “dirty dozen” companies. Amazon landed on the list for “a disturbing pattern of preventable deaths,” the report said, noting that seven Amazon workers have died on or near the job since 2013.
“We are proud of safety record and thousands of Amazonians work hard every day innovating ways to make it even better,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement at the time of the report’s release.