Illinois task force to study warehouse safety after Edwardsville tornado
An Illinois warehouse task force will soon begin work to recommend how to make the facilities safer following the Amazon warehouse collapse in December 2021.
“The fact that we had such a tragic result makes me wonder if we don't need to look at those building codes and see that maybe Illinois needs to go above and beyond what's already expected,” said state Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, who will serve on the 16-member Warehouse Safety Standards Task Force.
The group will meet publicly to take testimony from experts from across the country. The end goal will be a final report due Jan. 1, 2025, to recommend legislation for state lawmakers to consider. Between then and now, the committee will meet and provide reports quarterly.
Leadership in both the House and Senate will appoint lawmakers to the task force. In addition to a representative from the Illinois Department of Labor, Gov. JB Pritzker will name members from labor, business and local government backgrounds.
Stuart said she expects the group to meet within the next two months.
Top of mind for Stuart is determining if state law needs to make regional additions to International Building Codes. Those codes, which are set by a federal body and used across the country, do not require a storm shelter in a warehouse.
“If the building codes set a standard level, there's nothing that stops an individual corporation or company or builder from building above that standard if they want to be concerned about worker safety,” Stuart said.
The building codes are set to be updated in 2025, Stuart said. The task force’s deadline comes at a time when lawmakers hope to make recommendations for not only Illinois but also the International Code Council to consider — and possibly adopt nationwide.
Amazon said the company followed all regulations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration also found Amazon did not violate any federal rules.
“We want to go above and beyond in the areas that we have the most control over and the most confidence that they would make a difference,” Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel told St. Louis Public Radio last December. “And so, while that building is not being built with a storm shelter, that doesn't mean that conversations aren't being had.”
Amazon declined to comment on the task force’s creation.
None of the nearly 30 warehouses in the area called Logistics Valley has storm shelters, according to officials from Edwardsville and Pontoon Beach.