More than 100 FedEx employees at the firm’s Memphis parcel hub had to be evacuated and treated at the scene after a forklift truck punctured a five gallon barrel of concentrated chili peppers used to make pepper spray.
The incident, which occurred in the early hours of this morning left two FedEx employees needing hospital treatment after they inhaled refined capsicum from the peppers which caused chest pains.
The irritant can lead to respiratory difficulties or burn eyes and skin but FedEx said that 117 employees were decontaminated and then evaluated following the accident and went back to work or traveled home if their shift was over.
Lt. Wayne Cooke with Memphis Fire Dept. says a five gallon container of concentrated chili peppers, used to make pepper spray, was damaged by a forklift.
The incident occurred in an outdoor loading area and not indoors and FedEx officials said that they were aware of the contents of the barrel before it was damaged.
One 53-year-old man and 23-year-old woman were taken to the hospital for treatment for chest pains, although a FedEx spokesman said that their conditions were non-critical and the other 115 people were treated at the scene.
‘It could definitely have been worse, but we are happy to say that it is very much under control and that the situation is over,’ said FedEx spokesman Chris Stanley.
‘Safety is of paramount concern for us and is a priority. We acted very quickly, very safely, we got employees out of the area into an outdoor zone.
Some workers felt ill because of the side effects of the capsicum, but most recovered after washing their hands, eyes and face thoroughly.
‘It is all about quick reaction and we are very good at doing that and very good at contingency planning,’ said Stanley.
‘It occured in an outside area which helped to disperse the chemical.
‘Everyone either returned to work or went home if their shift was over.