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OHSA has opened an investigation into Amazon warehouse collapse in Edwardsville

Workers attempt to clear debris as part of a search and rescue operation on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, at an Amazon Distribution Hub in Edwardsville, Illinois. Violent storms, some producing tornado activity, ripped through the Midwest on Friday night, killing at least two in the warehouse.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Workers attempt to clear debris as part of a search and rescue operation on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, at an Amazon Distribution Hub in Edwardsville, Illinois. Violent storms, some producing tornado activity, ripped through the Midwest on Friday night, killing at least two in the warehouse.

Editor's note: This story was originally published by the Belleville News-Democrat, a reporting partner of St. Louis Public Radio.

The federal agency that oversees workplace safety says it has opened an investigation into the Amazon warehouse collapse in Edwardsville.

A tornado hit the warehouse on Friday night, killing six people. Officers from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, have been at the site northeast of the Interstate 255/270 interchange since Saturday.

“OSHA has six months to complete its investigation, issue citations and propose monetary penalties if violations of workplace safety and or health regulations are found,” said Scott Allen, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Labor.

In an interview Sunday, Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said managers at the warehouse began to “implement our shelter in place procedures” when weather officials put a tornado warning into effect around 8 p.m.

The warehouse has marked, “designated areas” for sheltering. She said Monday during a press conference that included Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker that the area was located in the northern end of the building. When a reporter asked where the “safe room” was located, Nantel quickly clarified that there is no safe room, but an interior section of the building.

“You want to be away from windows and a place that structurally has integrity, just like we would in our homes,” she said Sunday.

Nantel said employees train on emergency procedures when they’re hired and then “periodically throughout the year” on emergency procedures.

Some employees were told to shelter in bathrooms, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Monday, citing an account from an Amazon worker.

OSHA outlines workplace preparedness for tornadoes. Any rooms with flat, wide-span roofs should be avoided. The Amazon warehouse measures 1.1 million square feet and is constructed with concrete walls built around a steel frame.

Underground shelters are best, but if they’re not available, a small interior room or hallway away from windows and doors could provide protection. The Amazon warehouse does not have a basement.

Rooms built with reinforced concrete, brick or blocks with no windows and a heavy concrete floor or roof can offer protection.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Kelsey Landis is a reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat, a reporting partner of St. Louis Public Radio.

Copyright 2021 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.