Company charged over worker death
US company Bumble Bee Foods LLC and two former employees were charged with willfully violating worker safety rules, allegedly causing the death of an employee who became trapped inside an industrial oven.
This week Los Angeles Country District Attorny Jackie Lacey announced that Bumble Bee’s former Safety Manager Saul Florez, the company’s Director of Plant Operations Angel Rodriguez, and Bumble Bee Foods LLC were all to be charged with three felony counts each of an Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) violation causing death.
Prosecutors said on Oct. 11, 2012, victim Jose Melena, 62, of Wilmington, entered a 35-foot-long cylindrical oven as part of his job duties at Bumble Bee’s Santa Fe Springs plant.
Coworkers were unaware that Melena was inside the oven when they loaded multiple containers into the over, collectively holding about 12,000 pounds of tuna, closed the front door and started the cooking process.
The victim inadvertently became trapped in the back of the super-heated, pressurized steam cooker. During the two-hour heat sterilization process, the oven’s internal temperature rose to about 270 degrees.
Melena’s severely burned remains were discovered by a coworker, prosecutors said. Melena worked for the company for about six years.
If convicted as charged, Florez of Whittier and Rodriguez of Riverside face a maximum sentence of three years in state prison and/or a $250,000 fine. San Diego-based Bumble Bee Foods faces a maximum fine of $1.5 million.
The case remains under investigation by the Cal/OSHA Bureau of Criminal Investigations.
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