An automated robot punctured a bear spray canister in a fulfillment center.
Twenty four of the Amazon warehouse workers were sent to nearby hospitals for treatment. One person was in critical condition and 30 others were treated at the scene.
Robbinsville Township communications and public information officer John Nalbone told ABC News that it was "a 9-ounce bear repellent can, releasing concentrated Capsaican," the main ingredient in pepper spray.
"Today at our Robbinsville fulfillment center, a damaged aerosol can dispensed strong fumes in a contained area of the facility. 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," an Amazon spokeswoman told ABC News in a statement.
Robbinsville Fire Department reported the initial incident on their Twitter feed:
Robbinsville Fire Dept on scene at Amazon Warehouse on New Canton Way investigating “fumes” that have several employees complaining of illness. Fire Dept is attempting to isolate the source. EMTs are triaging multiple patients. 7 ambulances and a medic currently assigned
— Robbinsville Fire (@IAFFLocal3786) December 5, 2018
Though Amazon employees aren't unionized, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union chimed in about the dangers of robots in the workplace.
"Amazon's automated robots put humans in life-threatening danger today, the effects of which could be catastrophic and the long-term effects for 80 plus workers are unknown," said union president Stuart Appelbaum's statement. "The richest company in the world cannot continue to be let off the hook for putting hard working people's lives at risk. Our union will not back down until Amazon is held accountable for these and so many more dangerous labor practices."
The warehouse is reportedly around 1.3 million square feet and was ventilated.
Outdoorsman have increasingly debated the merits of bear spray alongside alternatives, specifically handguns carried in bear country. If used the right way and in the right conditions, it's certainly reasonable to expect bear spray to have an effect, but we're not leaving it to chance that the usage and conditions are always going to be "right."