FedEx Fatalities: Mugno Has Some Explaining To do

FedEx Mugno
Ellen Gladney

Scott Mugno, nominated by President Trump to be the next head of OSHA has a problem. Several problems actually.

Last Thursday morning, Thanksgiving Day,  at 12:30 am, the body of Ellen Gladney was found under a motorized mobile conveyor belt system at the FedEx Memphis hub.  Gladney, a FedEx “Team Leader” was described by friends as a “grandmother and full of life. She had a big smile and loved helping others.”

Gladney’s death was not only a terrible tragedy in itself, but the latest of three deaths of FedEx workers at the company’s Memphis hub over the past three and a half years. In 2015, 39-year-old Christopher Higginbottom, age 39 and father of twin boys,  was crushed by a “tug” and in 2014, 19-year-old Chandler Warren was crushed by a cargo lift. The Memphis FedEx World Hub covers more than 800 acres at Memphis International Airport. It has 42 miles of conveyor belts and is a key nerve center in the company’s package shipping operations.

Meanwhile, last month Michael Merton, 60, of Lubbock, Texas, was killed at a FedEx facility at Lubbock Preston Smith Airport.  Merton’s daughters have filed a wrongful death suit against the company, alleging gross negligence by failing to train its employees in proper safety procedures and providing a safe work environment. The daughters are frustrated because no one has told them how their father was killed. Their attorney explained that they filed the lawsuit “in order to do the discovery that we need to find out exactly what happened and how it happened and why it happened.”

Also in Tennessee,  a FedEx driver, 59-year-old Dorothy Brooker, was killed when a train hit her truck at a crossing that  did not have an arm or lights to warn of an approaching train. And in October 2016, a FedEx employee in Missouri was trapped in a conveyor belt and received “severe to moderate injuries” to his arm.

While any workplace death is a tragedy, three deaths in as many years at one site may indicate a serious problem with the company’s safety system.  And that means a serious problem for the Vice President for Safety, Sustainability and Vehicle Maintenance at FedEx Ground in Pittsburgh and former Managing Director for FedEx Express Corporate Safety, Health and Fire Protection in Memphis — Scott Mugno.

The Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration (TOSHA) is heading up the investigation into Gladney’s death. Tennessee is one of 21 OSHA state plan states that cover safety and health for private (and public) sector workers. TOSHA proposed to fine FedEx $4,000 in connection with the death of Higginbottom, but FedEx has appealed that case. FedEx received a $5200 citation for Warren’s death, which was later reduced to $4000. Federal OSHA issued a $38,025 citation for violation of the lockout-tagout and machine guarding standards related to the Missouri conveyor belt incident above.  FedEx is also contesting this citation.

Mugno has led FedEx-sponsored champion drivers at the National Truck Driving Championships (NTDC) and at the company’s Chairman’s Challenge Competition and Celebration where drivers who go accident free for a year to qualify to compete in the truck driving championships.  He has plenty to say about driver safety.

Being accident-free is very possible and it has advantages beyond becoming a member of Team FedEx. The biggest? Keeping the promise. The promise the driver made when they said “I’ll see you when I get home tonight,” or “I’ll meet you at your soccer game,” or “We’re going to have a great weekend this weekend, can’t wait.”

As a safety professional, part of my job is dealing with the aftermath of when that promise isn’t kept.

There are a number of questions that Senators may want to ask Mugno at his hearing next week about these fatalities and FedEx’s safety program when a confirmation hearing is held. For example

  • FedEx has a facility with three fatalities in three years. What does this say about the facility’s safety management system?
  • The FedEx web page talks about your Quality Action Teams which “continually search for root causes and propose safety procedure improvements to reduce preventable accidents.”  What kind of root causes did your team find as a result of these fatalities, and how did the company respond? What changes were made following each incident?
  • Why isn’t the family of Michael Merton being provided with the information they want regarding the death of their father?
  • Why did FedEx contest the $4000 citation for the death of Christopher Higginbottom and the Missouri citation after an employee became trapped in a conveyor belt?
  • The FedEx website is full of the great things that FedEx does to improve employee safety. But there is no mention of the FedEx employees who were killed on the job and what you have learned from these tragedies. Don’t you think that would help FedEx employees understand the hazards of the job and what can be done to prevent fatalities?
  • I note that FedEx carefully monitors and publicizes Lost Time Injury Rates and your Preventable Recordable Vehicle Accident Rate. That’s a good thing to do. Why do you publicize that information? Do you think it would also be good for OSHA to post on their website the injury and illness rates of all businesses who are required to submit that information to OSHA as was envisioned when OSHA issued its electronic recordkeeping rule last year?
  • The FedEx Global Citizen Report has an impressive summary of the company’s safety program. What do you think OSHA can do to bring other companies up to your standards — and not just those companies that aspire to get into VPP, but those companies who do not yet recognize the value of workplace safety?
  • OSHA recently removed a standard from the regulatory agenda that would have prevented workers from being run over by vehicles that are backing up. Do FedEx vehicles have backup cameras? Do you think that all work vehicles should have backup cameras?

Answers to these questions and others should inform the Senators, and American workers, about the lessons Mugno has learned from the tragedies he’s witnessed over the past several years at FedEx.

Fatalities OSHA Scott Mugno


  1. My name is Gary Brent. I was a 19 year FedEx Express Employee in 2012, and I was terminated for being a Whistle Blower
    October 16, 2012. An unscrupulous FedEx Express Labor Lawyer, accused me of some of the most vile accusations she could put together. While employed by FedEx Express I learned, If you challenge any member of FedEx Management on any
    subject, especially safety, they will destroy you, by any means legal or illegal.
    FedEx Express, FedEx Ground, and FedEx Freight have a plethora of employee injuries and vehicle accidents. FedEx Express has a good safety record because they usually intrastate; FedEx Freight operates interstate and has several
    serious accidents, like the April 2014 deadly crash in Orland, CA., 10 people perished. Cause of the accident was assigned to the FedEx Freight Driver. FedEx Ground Drivers are independent drivers, they are paid my the mile and have to purchase
    their own tractors and FedEx Ground supplies the trailers. FedEx Ground Drivers have to maintain their tractors and hire helpers, and this operating model is a major cause of all of FedEx’s Employee injuries and fatalities. FedEx Ground has a very questionable safety record, fatalities and crashes. My positions at FedEx Express were, Tractor Trailer Driver/Instructor and Safety Committee Coordinator. When I came to work at FedEx, I brought a lot of experience in the aviation industry, maritime industry, and industrial safety and health. My professional licenses are; Airline Transport Pilot,
    Flight Instructor MEL-Instrument, Aircraft Dispatcher Part121, Advanced Ground Instructor – Aviation Weather, FAR Regulations, and Instrument Flying procedures. I also have a U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Marine Officers License Hawaiian
    Waters. I have extensive knowledge of, Federal Motor Carrier Regulations, Federal Air Regulations, OSHA Code of Federal
    Regulations and Maritime CFRs. After 19 years working for FedEx Express, I noted many problems that what I believe are the cause of their poor safety records, employee and vehicle accidents. Fred Smith the founder of FedEx, runs the company with an Iron Fist; he has his hand in every aspect of FedEx’s Operations. Mr. Smith has a very questionable past. In 1975 Mr. Smith was indicted by a grand jury for forging documents to secure a $ 2 million loan, and for losing $14million
    by trading securities, Mr. Smith’s step sisters lost money in this trust and brought the charges against Mr. Smith. That evening of his indictment, Mr. Smith struck a black pedestrian and left the scene of the accident, the man died in the street from his injuries. Mr. Smith was charged with the hit and run and a expired license. Mr. Smith posted bond and was later cleared on any wrong doing. Mr. Smith was found not guilty of the Forgery Indictments. Mr. Smith’s first summer break from Yale he was driving to a local Lake and he lost control of the car causing the death of his front seat passenger.
    No charges were brought against Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith is a Risk Taker, is Anti Authority, and shows no concern for others
    lives. Another Root Cause of employee injuries is, FedEx is a Time Critical Business, planes, trucks, delivery vans, and Sort
    Operations have to be on time. FedEx Management places some unattainable goals on everyone and is usually is understaffed. Employees take a lot of short cuts to try and meet goals; disabling safety features on pieces of equipment.
    I reported to OSHA, loading decks at Miami Ramp the roller deck has locks that come up when the outside scissors goes down so that the load container doesn’t roll off the deck and fall approximately 6 ft. The employees deactivated these locks with wood pieces and large washers. Apparently OSHA found nothing wrong with safety breach. I reported to a FedEx Manager at a Pompano Beach location that the start and stop switch on a mobile belt loader was broken, and an employee opened the 440 volt control box so he could engage the start button. The employee was standing in water putting his wet hands in the 440 volt box. The manager told me that they needed this piece of equipment and let the employee continue this dangerous act. FedEx Management looks the other way instead of following safe operation procedures and CFRs and FMCS Regs. In FedEx Vehicle Operations the FMC Regs. FedEx does not follow their own written procedures. FMC Regs. states, all employees will be familiar with FMC Regs. FedEx Management and employees
    DO NOT follow FMC Regs. and they are not knowledgeable of FMCS Regs. Management instructs employees to use vehicles with serious safety issues, this is a serious violation of FMCS Regs., Aiding and Abetting Violations. In 2012 FedEx
    Express started using FedEx Ground Trailers to haul FedEx Express Freight, and these trailers were in the worst shape.
    I documented the terrible condition of these trailers with photographs, my pictures are the smoking gun. I went to local FedEx Management to report these poorly maintained trailers, I was told that Express could not fix the Ground Trailers.
    I would not use these trailers because they were falling apart, cracked frames, cracked rims support straps for air tanks broken, leaky axle seals, and numerous other safety issues. FedEx Management allowed employees to continue to use this dangerous equipment. The required Inspection Stickers on the trailers were missing and others falsified , very serious
    I reported this to the FMCA in PA and they claimed the trailers met safety standards. Unbelievable! There is massive collusion between Federal Agencies, OSHA, FMCSA, DOT, NTSB, ect. Scott Mugno is the SR VP of Safety and Maintenance at FedEx Ground and is NOT qualified to be the next Asst. OSHA Director. Scott Mugno has no real safety training, he is a.
    lawyer, politician, lobbyist, and influence peddler for Fred Smith. Mr. Mugo will NOT serve employees, only FedEx’s interests if he gets to Washington. You will also see longer and heavier trucks on the road and an increase in crashes and
    fatalities. You will see Mr. Mugno let FMCS Regs lapse causing an increase in crashes and fatalities. There are more qualified Safety and Health Professionals than Mr. Mugno out there. I hope to have more of my pictures on the web to
    verify my claims. Check this website, Federal Contractor Misconduct Database FedEx check their fines for HAZMAT violations, 2014 Puerto Rico Asbestos Disaster they do not care about the environment or people this is CRIMINAL!
    To all the FedEx Whistle Blowers and Patriots out there, Steve Zeltzer, Darrell Whitman JD Phd., and FedEx Mechanic,
    Brian Gruzalski, “There will be justice, Keep up the Good Fight !” Seasons Peace

  2. FedEx’s questionable relationship with, OSHA, FMCSA, NTSB, OIG DOT, and FAA. FedEx Corporation and all these Federal Agencies should be investigated for obstruction of justice, denying employees of their Whistle Blower Rights, Perjury, and other High Crimes and Misdemeanors. My OSHA Whistle Blower Claim STAA Section 405 and Violation of the Clean Waters
    Act were mishandled badly. My other OSHA Complaints were also mishandled. I have copies of OSHA Inspections that were
    falsified, I have pictures to prove my charges. Workers at FedEx were exposed to Brid Dropping Dust because of their were
    not informed of the dangers of Bird Droppings. The cleanup company for FedEx Express was not properly trained to clean up the Bird Droppings. They were not supplied Protective clothing, Hepa Masks, Gloves, Overalls, and informed of their
    Right To Know Law. FedEx was fined $ 10,450.00 for four of my complaints and according to a FedEx Safety Inspector
    she told me that she had them dropped, I thought, Why would she tell me this? That’s FedEx for you, they want to rub your nose in the dirt. In a workgroup meeting with my peers and other FedEx Managers present, FedEx Senior Manager WB
    said to me, “We’re FedEx, we don’t pay fines, you are wasting your time.” This is the deplorable and disgusting attitude
    FedEx projects, and that is why they have the problems they have. FedEx will NEVER admit any wrong doing, Even the
    Asbestos Disaster in Puerto Rico 2014, innocent people will get cancer, such HUBRIS. Say No to Fred Smith & Mugno

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