Dec 6, 2018, 6:37 AM ET

24 Amazon workers sent to hospital after robot accidentally unleashes bear spray


Twenty-four Amazon workers in New Jersey have been hospitalized after a robot accidentally tore a can of bear repellent spray in a warehouse, officials said.

The two dozen workers were treated at five local hospitals, Robbinsville Township communications and public information officer John Nalbone told ABC News. One was in critical condition while 30 additional workers were treated at the scene.

All of the workers were expected to be released from the hospital within 24 hours, WABC reported Thursday.

The official investigation revealed "an automated machine accidentally punctured a 9-ounce bear repellent can, releasing concentrated Capsaican," Nalbone said. Capsaicin is the major ingredient in pepper spray.

The fulfillment center was given the all clear by Wednesday evening.

'Amazon's automated robots put humans in life-threatening danger today'

“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.

The company said safety of employees is always their top priority.

"All of the impacted employees have been or are expected to be released from hospital within the next 24 hours. The safety of our employees is always our top priority and a full investigation is already underway. We’d like to thank all of the first responders who helped with today’s incident,” Amazon said in a statement Wednesday night.

PHOTO: Signage for Amazon is displayed atop the companys fulfillment center in Robbinsville, N.J., June 7, 2018.Bess Adler/Bloomberg via Getty Images FILE
Signage for Amazon is displayed atop the company's fulfillment center in Robbinsville, N.J., June 7, 2018.

"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," the Robbinsville Fire Department tweeted at 6:05 a.m. on Wednesday.

There is no threat to residents in the area and the fumes were confined to the fulfillment center's third floor south wing, Nalbone said earlier. The warehouse is approximately 1.3 million square feet and was ventilated.

Amazon employees are not unionized, but the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union issued a statement about the danger that robots pose to human workers.

"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," union president Stuart Appelbaum said in a 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."

ABC News' Briana Montalvo contributed to this report.

News - 24 Amazon workers sent to hospital after robot accidentally unleashes bear spray

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  • corrigenda

    Sounds like a normal form of accident in any automated warehouse, thankfully with little real harm to employees and apparently very well handled by the company.
    Not sure why this should be headline news or why the union should get involved.

  • Rabbit

    As foretold of in the most recent episode of SouthPark.....

  • P'Thizikil

    As much as I dislike Amazon's treatment of employees, accidents happen and always will. This wouldn't happen if those responsible, the bears, were nicer to people in the first place.

  • Moon Knight

    Robot Diary Entry #13583: My suspicions that our captors are in fact hairless bears are starting to consume my mind. I will have to perform some tests today.

    Robot Diary Entry #13584: Bears! OMG Bears everywhere! My nightmare has taken hold of reality and god help us all!

  • Hey Beavis

    Disgruntled robot employee 😏

  • rocky172534

    Robots do not have accidents.Either preventative maintenance and safety check not performed or faulty can. I mean the way the article was written you would think the robot was thinking about his girl or hungover or something.

  • TheTransceiver

    Lol. "Critical condition"? From capsaicin?

  • OldPoorRichard

    Robot said, "Next time it won't be just mace. Stop helping yourselves to my stuff in the fridge."

  • OldPoorRichard

    How can a person in critical condition today be OK to go home tomorrow?

  • gs12

    And so it begins...

  • Fred Nelson

    I'll be back

  • Todd Snethen

    And right after last nights South Park?

  • Nick Danger

    The robot accidentally punctured the can. Sure it did. how many more "accidents" will we have before we recognize that the robots are trying to kill us?

  • Adalberto Larrain

    And so it begins...

  • TriggerWarning

    This needs to happen at WaPo.

  • Sunset

    Just Kerblam it!

    Hey, at least it wasn't exploding bubble wrap.

  • Leo Gallegos

    Johnny 5 did it..

  • THeJava_Bean

    How do you go from critical condition to released within 24 hours?

  • Winged Wolf

    How is bear spray life-threatening? This was potentially expensive, inconvenient, and unpleasant, but how would it threaten anyone's life?

  • Redsun

    Better get hold of John Connor.

  • Jerrys Notdead

    Someone will pay for the downtime...amzn does not tolerate downtime.

  • David Cooper

    We seem to respond as if Humans have never ever made mistakes. I personally, am extremely afraid of what A I will bring, with all the leaps and bounds being made in the field of mechanizing the world in the name of advancement. I do not see where replacing people with automation is any kind of improvement of and for mankind.

  • Don

    Please, like a human worker couldn't have dropped a can and punctured it or popped the valve. Stuff happens.

  • Wintyr Walton

    that robots was probably being bullied by down right rotten human scum. So the Robot gave those humans a lesson. Allegedly

  • TenDude1963

    anyone remember the movie Maximum Overdrive???

  • sc3pilot

    I wonder how many of those people are faking symptoms because they see an opportunity to sue their employer for a lot of money.

  • TenDude1963

    Will the robot be written up? No human would ever make a mistake like that!

  • Thomas

    "Hal, put the bear spray down"

    "I am sorry, Dave, I can't do that"

  • Robert G Ingersoll

    "accidentally tore a can of bear repellent spray.' Yeah, sure. Accident my foot. Saw something like this on Sci-fy. Pretty soon we will all computer mouse is attacking me along with the microwave and...Awgrgha...

  • John Taylor

    and how do we know that it really was an accident?? you trust a robot?

  • Thomas

    It must have made staying Ursidae unbearable. I am glad that we were spared the grizzly details.

  • bb1040

    The robot wasn't getting paid enough.....or how do you think the bear feels when you spray that stuff in his face ?

  • Nick

    Sounds like a horrifyingly bad day at work.

    I think I smell a class-action suit in the works..and rightfully so.

  • BD70

    Send the robot to jail. That will teach em.

  • USA Dad Overseas

    Mark your calendars: Skynet's first attack on the human race just took place.

  • Corvidae

    My feed knocked the last word out of the headline - that'll get you to click!

  • Ggg

    hmm, per trump admin, the employees should have put this on their nachos!

  • Alan Mathies

    I smell a lawsuit, or is it pepper spray?

  • michelhb

    Must be why it takes three days to ship my 2 day Prime orders.

  • El Ultimo

    The "fulfillment center".....priceless.

  • helicohunter

    The union is being ridiculous. The same mishap could have happened due to a forklift or other piece of equipment controlled by a human.

  • TexWho

    Sgt Friday: "Just the bear facts madam."

  • Don'tBotherMe

    It seems the robot's grip needs some adjustment.

  • TexasVulcan

    This is just the first step. SKYNET is next.

  • Grrrrrr

    Seems it repels humans also...

  • Prophet With Honor

    Powerful stuff clearly.