Warehouse workers express concerns over working conditions with COVID-19

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HAZLETON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) The COVID-19 pandemic is raising questions and concerns from employees who work in warehousing and logistics facilities, some of them are called fulfillment center. These businesses are located all across our region. Community leaders in the Hazleton area, which is a COVID-19 hot zone, are especially concerned since many residents are employed in those facilities.

Several large warehousing and distribution operations are located in the Humboldt Industrial Park as well as the nearby Valmont Industrial Park. State and local officials say they are working to make sure those companies are doing everything possible to keep their employees safe.

The Humboldt Industrial Park is always a busy place. Trucks coming into and out of the park virtually 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are several large distribution centers located here that employ thousands of people from the Hazleton area, many of them are Latino.

“If you get only one infected one in the factory it’s going to get everyone infected,” said Vianney Castro.

Castro is president of the Spanish Business Association of Hazleton. He says he’s been receiving a lot of calls expressing concerns about what some employees believe are potentially unsafe conditions.

“We have factories where you have like 800 people working together, 500 people 600 people, all working together. We said from the beginning it’s going to be a time bomb,” Castro told us.

State lawmakers from the Hazleton area say they are doing what they can to prevent possible COVID-19 related problems.

Senator John Yudichak, who represents the 14th District told Eyewitess News, “We are communicating with these companies. We’ve had several conference calls making sure that they are following the COVID-19 guidelines from the federal government and state government. We want to make sure these workers are protected . They have raised complaints and concerns.”

“We have thousands of workers in the industrial parks and they’re still working. They can be exposed at work. We’ve had cases in the industrial park. So, we got information out to all the stakeholders at the industrial park. A lot of the managers and there were OSHA questions . They were not following or not aware of, ” said State Representative Tarah Toohill, who represents the 116th District.

Hazle Township Code Officer Scott Kostician looked into several complaints from employees of a half dozen companies in Humboldt.

“We went into several plants that had controls in place. Some places went over and above what the governor is requesting and other places are having a hard time getting availability of cleaning supplies, face masks and gloves for their staff,” Kostician told us.

Kostician said that some companies have reduced their staff numbers during shifts and others have even set up sanitizing stations in their plant. The names of the companies that were checked out are not, at this point in time being released by Hazle Township officials. Kostician says code officers can inspect businesses under OSHA authority and the state licensing requirements.

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