FedEx hit with 'serious' safety violation following worker's 2017 death

Ellen Gladney (Source: Facebook)
Ellen Gladney (Source: Facebook)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A months-long investigation into a death at the FedEx Hub in Memphis revealed FedEx failed to create procedures protecting some employees from situations "likely to cause death or serious physical harm."

Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration (TOSHA) conducted the investigation and released a 230-page report citing FedEx for a "serious" violation.

According to the report, the violation played a role in the death of Ellen Gladney, a grandmother and FedEx employee who died on the job.

Gladney was found dead around midnight on Thanksgiving in 2017. Investigators said her body was found under a motorized mobile conveyor belt system.

Jeff Rosenblum is an attorney for two of Gladney's children. He said the TOSHA report highlights a serious safety oversight at the FedEx hub.

"I think this was a foreseeable accident. A foreseeable death, that was very very preventable," Rosenblum said. ""[FedEx was] more concerned about protecting their plane, than they were Ms. Gladney and their employees."

TOSHA said Gladney was working as an E-Stop Controller. Her job was to work with a guide person and a load operator to move the cargo loader into position under FedEx's Boeing 777.

However, in the report TOSHA found that FedEx did not have specific procedures in place that ensured the guide person and load operator checked with the E-Stop Controller before moving the cargo loader into place.

TOSHA said evidence at the scene proved that Gladney followed FedEx procedures, but still was hit by the cargo loader and dragged under the conveyor belt system.

TOSHA blamed the incident on the fact the load operator could not see the E-Stop Controller.

"FedEx was aware that the loader operator could not see the E-Stop Controller while positioned at the loader controls," the TOSHA report read.

The agency said FedEx was aware of this danger but still failed to create any procedure that would account for the location of all three employees prior to the cargo loader being moved.

"Even with knowledge of potential struck-by hazards and blind spots created by the E-Stop box placement, FedEx Corporation failed to include a step(s) into the written procedures to account for all personnel prior to movement of the cargo loader."

"The auxiliary platform is a good 10 or 12 inches above ground which makes this horrific because if you are hit by the auxiliary platform, you can be sucked underneath and drug, and that's what happened to Ms. Gladney," Rosenblum said.

For that oversight, TOSHA levied a "serious" violation against FedEx. The company is required to display the violation at its hub, create procedures to prevent this in the future, and pay a $7,000 fine.

FedEx released the following statement concerning the report:

"We are aware of the report and we are working with TOSHA to address the concerns raised.  We remain committed to ensuring that our operations meet the highest standards of safety."

Gladney's son Mareo Taylor said his mother loved her job at FedEx. He said he hopes her tragic death leads to changes that prevent more loss of life.

"It changed our life forever as a family," Taylor said. "It's more of a safety issue I'm concerned about, especially for further people who work out there."

No lawsuit has been filed against FedEx yet. Rosenblum said Gladney's family has until November to file suit.

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