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What's changed since deadly tornado struck Illinois Amazon warehouse?

Saturday marks one year since a deadly tornado hit an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois.

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. — The deadly tornado that struck an Amazon warehouse last December led to calls to action and promises for change. But one year later, Illinois lawmaker Katie Stuart said she hasn't seen nearly enough. 

"Unfortunately, no, enough hasn't changed... we're on the way to making those necessary changes. But we haven't gotten there yet," said Illinois Representative Katie Stuart(D-112th District).

She said warehouses in Illinois and Missouri can still be built without storm shelters, even when they lack basements. It's because local codes haven't changed to require them.

"If you're not satisfied with the international building codes, are you ready to go above and beyond?" asked the I-Team's Paula Vasan. 

"I'm ready to go above and beyond to put forth legislation that would require more," said Stuart. "I want to require safer conditions for workers when tornadoes hit, because, let's face it, where we live and the changing nature of our climate, we are going to see these storms get worse and happen more often."

Stuart believes progress will come from a bill she sponsored: House Bill 1563. It would create a task force of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, structural engineers, and climate change experts. Getting it off the ground has been slow.

"I'm disappointed that the Senate didn't move more quickly," said Stuart.

Missouri Congresswoman Cori Bush is also pushing for action. Two of the six people who died last year were from her district. Over the past year, she’s been working with other lawmakers with the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. They’ve been pushing Amazon to reveal how it handles severe weather. 

"So much more still needs to be done," said Bush.

In light of last year's deaths, she spearheaded two pieces of legislation that could come up for a vote early next year. Her legislation would, in part, prevent workers from being fired for seeking shelter during severe weather. 

"Is this an Amazon issue or is this something bigger?" asked Vasan.

"So this is actually something bigger, which is why we have been working with labor groups and just activist advocates around the country to see how we can make sure that workers are safe and are being taken care of," said Bush.

She wants companies like Amazon to raise their standards.

Since the deadly tornado, Amazon has told us they're focusing on emergency drills and manager training. Right now, the Edwardsville warehouse -- which Amazon leases -- is being rebuilt without a storm shelter or any structural changes. Amazon said its structures meet all building code requirements. 

An Amazon spokesperson said they’re making themselves available for interviews on Friday. 

Following the December 10 tornado that resulted in 6 deaths, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a Hazard Alert Letter to Amazon, requiring the online retailer to review its severe weather emergency procedures. OSHA did not issue any citations or fine the company. OSHA investigators determined that while Amazon’s severe weather emergency procedures met minimal federal safety guidelines for storm sheltering, the company should make improvements to further protect workers and contract drivers in future emergencies. OSHA does not have a standard that requires severe weather emergency plans but recommends them under the Occupational and Safety Health Act’s General Duty Clause, which requires employers to provide a place of employment free from known hazards.

Previous I-Team reporting:


Got a tip or a concern? Call or text KSDK's senior investigative reporter Paula Vasan at 314-250-9560. Email her at pvasan@ksdk.com. 

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