MEMPHIS, Tenn – FedEx faces a federal investigation following the death of an employee at the Memphis FedEx hub, the site of three workplace deaths in five years.
According to WHBQ Fox 13, Chris Higginbottom, a 39-year-old single father of two boys, died Sunday morning during an early morning shift. Police investigating Mr. Higginbottom’s death said he was driving a large vehicle known as a “tug” into a parked trailer.
Tugs are used to move cargo between FedEx airplanes and warehouses. Mr. Higginbottom was underneath the tug’s loaded trailer.
Companies are required to promptly report the death of an employee to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which sends inspectors to the facility or worksite where the death occurred to determine whether lapses in safety contributed to the accident.
OSHA’s Tennessee office sent staff to the FedEx hub in Memphis to investigate the circumstances of Mr. Higginbottom’s death and whether any violations of federal safety rules may have contributed to the accident.
According to Fox 13, this is the third time in five years that OSHA has sent investigators to the FedEx facility in Memphis. The previous two investigations were also prompted by fatal accidents.
In 2014, a 19-year-old material handler was crushed to death under a platform as it was being lowered. In 2011, a tug operator fell off the vehicle, injuring his knee. The injury became infected in the hospital and led to the man’s death.
OSHA fined FedEx for safety violations it discovered in both cases and issued nominal fines. In 2014, the agency cited FedEx $4,000 for violations it classified as “serious.” In 2011, OSHA ordered FedEx to pay $2,400 for workplace safety violations unrelated to the accident that triggered the investigation.
Steve Hawkins, administrator of OSHA’s Tennessee office, told Fox 13 that the maximum fine companies can be charged for a single violation is $7,000.
FedEx released a statement about Mr. Higginbottom’s death: “This is tragic and our hearts are heavy with sadness over the loss of a FedEx team member following an early-morning accident at our Memphis Hub,” the company said. “Our prayers and deepest sympathy are extended to his family. We are working with local authorities in their investigation.”
Source: WHBQ Fox News 13