FedEx Ground warehouse shot cushions normally stable system
Violence in the warehouse is rare, which may reflect the success of stakeholders in keeping it that way. Equally rare is public discourse around the issue, it seems. Few people want to discuss it live or in private. The Warehouse Education and Research Council (WERC), the leading trade group for warehouse executives, has not published anything on workplace violence since 2002. Next, Barry Brandman, President and CEO of Fair Lawn, New Jersey’s Danbee Investigations, which marks its 50th anniversary next year, devoted four pages of a 64-page warehouse safety report to workplace violence. (Most of the report dealt with best practices for tackling the much more common episodes of cargo theft and looting.)
One red flag, Brandman wrote at the time, was for warehouse workers living with problems at home. “Sometimes domestic issues spill over into the workplace,” he said.
Another warning sign concerns employees who made threats or were threatened, Brandman wrote. “While 99 out of 100 threats do not result in physical harm, this is the only case you ignore that can cause irrevocable harm,” he said.
Brandman urged managers to watch for employees who felt targeted by supervisors or co-workers for unfair criticism or ridicule. These workers, he wrote, can “eventually strike back and seek revenge.” A fascination with guns was also a disaster waiting to happen because “the bigger issues involve acts of violence with knives, handguns and assault weapons,” Brandman wrote.
A violent episode does not happen overnight, but rather is the last link in a chain of events spread over a period of time, Brandman wrote. It is essential for businesses to spot the “early warning signs” that usually precede an act of violence, he said. At least once a year, managers and supervisors should undergo hands-on training, including role-play scenarios where they put themselves in the shoes of participants in real, stressful scenarios, he said.
Brandman’s words became tragically premonitory on April 15, when Jared Scott Hole, 19, armed with two AR-15 style rifles legally purchased last summer, allegedly drove his vehicle into the parking lot of an operating Indianapolis facility. by FedEx Ground, a unit of FedEx Corp., and opened fire in the parking lot and inside the warehouse. When the carnage ended minutes later, nine people were dead, eight of whom were FedEx employees. The ninth was the suspected gunman, who worked at the facility for three months last year and who authorities said had committed suicide. Seven others were injured, four of whom were shot.
The building, adjacent to Indianapolis International Airport, the company’s second largest air cargo hub after Memphis, Tennessee, is equipped with metal detectors and security turnstiles at its entrance requiring employees to scan their FedEx badges , according to published reports. There were at least 100 people in the facility at the time of the shooting, and many were changing jobs or were on lunch break, according to reports.
It was revealed that in March 2020, Hole’s mother warned authorities that he planned to die in what is known as “cop suicide” and that he had purchased a shotgun the day before. The gun was seized and Hole was immediately taken to hospital. An investigation was opened but was later closed due to lack of evidence of a criminal offense or racially motivated extremist ideology, according to reports, although an officer responding to Hole’s mother’s warnings found evidence of white supremacist websites on his computer.
Indianapolis police will not comment on the case, citing the ongoing investigation. FedEx declined to comment on the details. For now, Hole’s motives and MO are only speculation. What is clear, however, is that it penetrated the defenses of a facility operated by one of the most safety-conscious companies, not just in transportation, but throughout American industry.
Dean Maciuba, who spent 35 years at FedEx in various senior positions, said the company’s robust protocols include uniformed security personnel inside its hubs and terminals, from metal detectors to the entrances to its Floor sorting facilities, thorough background checks of all new employees, thorough management. training and close relations with national and local law enforcement agencies. In the aftermath of the shooting, FedEx has come under fire for its policy of banning cell phones in warehouses, making it impossible for workers to communicate with the outside world. However, Maciuba said the policy was a necessary security measure. The facilities have many quick parts that “can kill an employee in an instant” if distracted by a mobile device, he said.
“FedEx Ground doesn’t skimp on safety,” Maciuba said, an opinion echoed by two other industry players who, however, declined to comment on the incident.
A warehouse industry executive who requested anonymity to speak frankly said not all warehouse parking lots are closed and managed by security personnel. Some facilities offer relatively open access to the property, according to the executive. Additionally, monitoring every worker entering and exiting a property can be problematic, as it involves tracking hundreds of employees who complete three shifts in a 24-hour cycle, the executive said.
“The point is, you can’t protect everything,” the executive said.
Prevention of the type of violence that has been witnessed in Indianapolis often begins during the employee screening process. Here, too, the solutions are not cut and dried. Brian Devine, who runs Prologistix, a company that hires and places warehouse workers with company customers, searches for a history of violent crime as well as cargo theft incidents. However, the Prologistix database is programmed to report convictions. He may not have caught Hole, who does not appear to have been convicted of a felony before the shooting.
Devine said the increasing use of automation has made the verification process more productive, effective and efficient, all key factors as the warehouse workforce grows as more centers processors are built to withstand the huge spike in e-commerce. In the past, experts like Devine had to go to courthouses to get relevant information about a potential employee.
Mass shootings in the warehouse industry are a rarity, which has made filming in Indianapolis such a stunning development, according to Devine. “Companies are doing what they can” to protect employees, and “they are doing a very good job,” he said.