As a family mourns the loss of the man killed in Sunday morning’s workplace accident at the FedEx hub in Memphis, the shipping company faces another investigation after its third death in five years.
Chris Higginbottom, 39, a single father of two twin boys, was killed while working an early morning shift Sunday.
“He's a great father, he's a great uncle, he's always opened his door for someone,” Jeanetta Harris, the victim’s niece, told FOX13. “I was struggling at the time and I didn't have no one. He opened up his home to me and my kids.”
Police said Higginbottom died after crashing a “tug” he was driving into a parked trailer. The man was found dead underneath the tug’s loaded trailer, according to MPD.
A tug is a large vehicle used to move merchandise to and from FedEx airplanes and the warehouse.
“He was dedicated to his job,” Evelyn Higginbottom, the victim’s sister, said. “No matter how many hours they asked him to work he worked it.”
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is conducting an investigation following Higginbottom’s death. FedEx is required by law to report deaths and injuries to OSHA, making the investigation standard procedure.
This is the third time in five years the company has been investigated, according to reports obtained by FOX13. The company has faced fines for as much as $5,200 for workplace safety violations.
Steve Hawkins, administrator for Tennessee’s OSHA, said the maximum fine companies can be charged is $7,000.
After looking through previous OSHA investigations, FOX13 discovered similar reports and incidents in the past. In each case, an employee either fell off of heavy equipment, or heavy equipment fell on top of the employee.
In 2011, a tug operator fell off one of the tugs, injuring his knee. The knee became infected in the hospital, and ultimately led to his death.
OSHA fined FedEx $2,400 for various workplace violations. Hawkins said each of the violations was unrelated to the incident that led to the man’s death. Violations included machinery issues and other safety concerns.
In 2014, another material handler lost his life on the job. Chandler Warren, 19, was crushed under a platform when authorities say he reached under it while it was being lowered.
OSHA fined FedEx $4,000 for “serious” violations after Warren’s death in 2014, according to a report obtained by FOX13. Hawkins said investigators determined FedEx failed to provide a workplace free of safety hazards, and the fines were charged to penalize the company.
FedEx released the following statement, following the fatal accident Sunday morning:
“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. Our prayers and deepest sympathy are extended to his family. We are working with local authorities in their investigation.”
FedEx had no further comment when questioned about safety concerns at the hub in Memphis.
The victim’s sister told FOX13 Higginbottom was excited about an upcoming promotion.
“They were getting ready to have a party for him because he was getting ready to go into that position,” Evelyn Higginbottom said. “I told Chris, when you do a good job and you work hard that's what happens.”
Higginbottom was described by family members as a loving father of two teenaged boys, a hard worker, and a man who opened his arms to friends and family when they needed support.
“It's hard,” Harris, the victim’s niece, told FOX13. “He's a really great uncle. All he does is work, take care of his kids and come home.”
Higginbottom’s kids were in school Monday, the day after they found out their father was dead.
“They wanted to go to school and let their father know that they still want to do right,” Evelyn Higginbottom said. “They decided they wanted to go to school.”
Cox Media Group