Blue Apron, a New York City-based meal-subscription service, delivers recipes and pre-measured ingredients to customers’ doorsteps. The business has grown rapidly, and is now worth approximately $2 billion, but its California warehouse and packaging facility has seen some serious problems — from common workplace injuries to sexual assault and threats.
In an OSHA inspection from 2015, following a two-week evaluation, the meal service had nine violations and penalties that amounted to $11,695.
Workplace injuries have significantly decreased in the U.S. due to more regulations and employee training. However, injuries and incidents still happen in the packaging industry. In fact, 70% of injuries in these warehouses affect those who have undergone proper training. For Blue Apron, many workplace injuries couldn’t be avoided by employees, as the warehouse conditions were so hazardous.
The unsafe work conditions put employees at risk for fractured bones, chemical burns and falls, among other issues. Earlier that year, the company had a forklift accident that cost it $13,050 in OSHA fines.
An employee was operating a forklift which carried a broken metal table. The forklift rolled on its side, pinning the driver’s leg between the floor and the forklift’s mirror. The employee had been certified to operate other machinery for the company, but not this particular piece of equipment.
On top of the injuries, there have been multiple accounts of criminal activity at the Blue Apron warehouse. The same day OSHA issued nine violations, a disgruntled employee called his supervisor to quit. He also informed the supervisor that he was planning to bring a gun to the warehouse later that day and shoot his manager, as well as other warehouse employees.
After the supervisor listened to the message, Richmond (CA) Police were called. The police apprehended the former employee, and continued to monitor the grounds periodically throughout the day.
They were called back later on that day, however, when a security guard was concerned that a different employee, who had been fired for groping a female worker earlier that day, would bring a weapon to the premises. He was brought into custody and arrested for sexual assault and violating parole.
The Richmond warehouse facility opened three years ago, and since then area police have received two calls due to weapons, three calls for bomb threats, and seven for assault. Four arrests have been made on the premises and employees have reported abusive behaviors by their coworkers.
“I enjoy jobs where things are on fire more than ones where I’m sitting around,” said one former Blue Apron team leader in an interview with Buzzfeed. “But there were times when it was just horrible.”
The company’s rapid expansion, combined with insufficient resources to meet that growth, have caused Blue Apron to neglect its employees’ welfare and workplace conditions. The company is said to have used extremely lax hiring practices that did not include background checks for new hires.
As employees continue to complain abut the chaotic conditions at the warehouse, Blue Apron Inc. is feeling more pressure to sell the company. The company has been interviewing banks that would be able to work on the company’s initial offering. Experts estimate that the company would be worth about $3 billion in an IPO.
This solution, ideally, would allow the company to improve its practices and keep employees and customers happy.