Technology

Amazon faces fine for shipping corrosive drain cleaner

Amazon Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Amazon has repeatedly been accused of breaching regulations

Online retailer Amazon is facing a $350,000 (£247,000) fine for allegedly shipping hazardous chemicals that injured delivery workers.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed the fine, accusing the firm of breaching rules by sending a corrosive drain cleaner by air.

Nine UPS employees complained of burns after handling the package after the substance leaked, the authority said.

Amazon said it would work with the FAA to improve its processes.

According to the authority, Amazon sent a package containing a one-gallon container of the corrosive drain cleaner "Amazing! LIQUID FIRE" from Kentucky to Colorado via UPS in October 2014.

Hazardous

"While being transported, some of the Liquid Fire leaked through the fibreboard box. Nine UPS employees who came into contact with the box reported feeling a burning sensation and were treated with a chemical wash," the FAA said.

It accused Amazon of failing to package the shipment properly and said the box did not have the correct labelling or documentation and said the firm's staff who handled it were not properly trained.

"Amazon has a history of violating the Hazardous Materials Regulations. From February 2013 to September 2015 alone, Amazon was found to have violated the Hazardous Materials Regulations 24 times. The FAA is continuing to investigate Amazon's compliance with the Hazardous Materials Regulations applicable to air transportation," it said.

The Reuters news agency reported that the FAA has sought a total of nearly $1.3m in fines as a result of those instances. In at least 15, hazardous material leaked, the FAA said in its notice of violation.

Fines

It was not clear how many times Amazon had paid fines or admitted responsibility because the FAA does not announce fines of less than $50,000, a spokesman for the authority told Reuters. The company did pay $91,000 in April 2014 for an incident the previous year in which its employees improperly shipped flammable liquid adhesive.

FedEx employees in Boulder discovered a gallon container of adhesive was leaking, not properly labelled and without proper shipping papers, the FAA said.

An Amazon spokesperson said: "We ship tens of millions of products every day and have developed sophisticated technologies to detect potential shipping hazards and use any defects as an opportunity for continuous improvement. We will continue to partner with the FAA in this area."

The firm has 30 days to respond to the FAA.

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