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24 Amazon Employees Hospitalized After Can of Bear Spray Explodes at Fulfillment Center

Time logo Time 2018-12-06 Gina Martinez
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Two dozen workers at an Amazon fulfillment center in New Jersey were sent to the hospital – one in critical condition – after a machine punctured an aerosol canister of bear repellent Wednesday.

The incident occurred shortly before 9 a.m. at Amazon’s fulfillment center in Robbinsville Township, outside of Trenton. Township spokesperson John Nalbone tells TIME that employees reported having trouble breathing and felt burning sensations in their eyes and throat.

a display in a store: Workers walk along aisles of goods stored inside an Amazon.co.uk fulfillment centre in Hemel Hempstead, north of London, on November 25, 2015. Shops could be seeing the effect of consumers postponing purchases until "Black Friday" on November 27, a day of sales in the United States that has become increasingly popular in Britain. (AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNISADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images) © Adrian Dennis—AFP/Getty Images Workers walk along aisles of goods stored inside an Amazon.co.uk fulfillment centre in Hemel Hempstead, north of London, on November 25, 2015. Shops could be seeing the effect of consumers postponing purchases until "Black Friday" on November 27, a day of sales in the United States that has become increasingly popular in Britain. (AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNISADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Nalbone says emergency crews responded to a call that 54 employees were experiencing symptoms. Of those, 24 were taken to the hospital. One is in critical condition in the ICU, but expected to have “a positive outcome.”

According to Nalbone, an automated machine punctured a 9-ounce can of the bear spray, which contains highly concentrated capsaicin that is meant to repel aggressive bears up to 30 feet away.

Multiple brands of bear spray are available for sale on Amazon’s site.

Amazon confirmed that a damaged canister caused the problem.

“Today at our Robbinsville fulfillment center, a damaged aerosol can dispensed strong fumes in a contained area of the facility,” Rachael Lighty, an Amazon spokesperson, said in a statement to TIME. “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. We appreciate the swift response of our local responders.” Nalbone says the building was given the all-clear by the health department a few hours later. He says the canister was punctured on the third floor of the building and impacted only a small area. No nearby residents were at risk. The workers who were not taken to the hospital were given a few extras hours for their lunch break and were expected to return to work around 4 or 5 p.m., Nalbone says
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