Narrow parking blamed for accidents at FedEx
Throughout its seven-year history in Troutdale, a FedEx Ground shipping hub has accumulated two workplace deaths, a serious injury and one "near miss."
Most recently, a Jaydan Logistics contractor was fatally pinned between two trailers on Saturday, Oct. 14.
With a full investigation currently underway, no one is talking. But previous Oregon Occupational Health and Safety Administration investigations highlight multiple factors, including human error and the narrow space created by truck trailers lined up in a row.
The Outlook reviewed 13 case files relating to random inspections, employee-generated complaints and safety investigations targeting Troutdale FedEx and its closely associated contractors.
Workers in 2015 described the Troutdale facility's parkings stalls as "hard" and "tight," making it difficult to hook up trailers or access a truck's landing gear, according to a report by a government safety inspector.
An investigator determined that trailers at the Sundial Road center were parked roughly 25 to 36 inches apart.
"Having less than four feet of distance between a parked vehicle ... provides little space to avoid a struck-by or caught-between hazard," the investigator concluded in his report, which did not find fault or lead to a fine or citation.
"(We) encourage you to review the design, layout and operation of your yard, and evaluate opportunities for measures such as safe distance or barriers or ... staggered trailer assignments to prevent simultaneous side-by-side work," he wrote.
Range of subcontractors
When attaching a trailer, truck drivers typically hook up their own air brakes, chains and lights. These tasks can only be accomplished by walking along the sides of semitrailers.
That was the case on Sept. 9, 2010, when contracted employee Pedro Enrico Sagasizado apparently forgot to apply the brakes after backing his truck into a loading bay surrounded by adjacent trailers.
Sagasizado left the truck and began hooking a second trailer to the one already attached to the semi. As Sagasizado lowered the trailer jack, the entire rig suddenly began to roll backwards, pressing the 53-year-old between his trailer and another. Jesus Laco Durcios, a trainee making 19 cents a mile, saw blood flowing from Sagasizado's mouth and hopped into the cab and moved the truck, releasing the fatally-injured worker from the pinch point.Investigators found that a slight slope on FedEx's paved parking lot allowed the unsecured truck to move. No citation was issued.
Narrow aisles also played a role in the serious injury of Jeffrey Utterson, another contracted worker who hauled FedEx shipping containers for about two years.
It was roughly 5 a.m. on November 17, 2015, when Utterson, an employee of VSD Transport, stepped out of his tractor trailer to check on a fifth wheel that he described as "not matching."
At the same time, a different contractor from Karinas Trucking was backing his semitrailer into the neighboring loading bay. Witnesses couldn't agree if the Karinas truck had working reverse lights or beeper.
Utterson was struck and "seriously" injured, according to an investigation by OSHA, the workplace safety agency. But by the time an inspector arrived, the Karinas truck was already departed for its next destination."A large number of subcontractors and their employees arrive at the yard every day (which) may bring a wide range of training quality (and) understanding," the safety official wrote.
In a near-miss incident from the facility's first week of operation in 2010, a FedEx employee was loading a trailer when it suddenly began moving forward. An investigation determined the driver hooked up to the trailer after mistaking it for his own. The incident was dismissed without citation.
FedEx itself has never been fined or cited for operations in Troutdale. One inspector specifically noted that local management appear genuinely concerned for the safety and health of employees.
"Safety is our top priority, both within our operating company and across our network of vendors and service providers," commented FedEx Ground spokeswoman Meredith Miller. "At our Troutdale hub and throughout our 600 facilities, we proactively implement policies, procedures, and vendor contracting standards to ensure compliance with all applicable laws, including workplace and motor vehicle safety regulations."
The global courier service released several statements earlier to The Outlook after the October death of the contractor, whose name has not been released."We extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the individual involved in this accident, who was employed by a service provider under contract with FedEx Ground," Miller said. "We are cooperating fully with investigating authorities at this time."
Steve Rautio, president of the Happy Valley-based Jaydan Logistics, did not respond to multiple calls and an email requesting comment. Like many small and mid-sized contractors, the outfit only hauls for FedEx.
An OSHA spokesman confirmed that the agency has launched an investigation into both companies, with a completed report expected within the next three to six months. OSHA doesn't comment on open cases.