CEO says co. is “shocked and saddened” by worker’s death

Cleared to re-open, factory remained closed for three days out of "respect"

A California food manufacturer has taken the unusual step of issuing a public letter following a workplace fatality

The death of 62-year-old Jose Melena is being investigated by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, which said it could take months to determine the cause of the accident.

Bumble Bee Foods’ President and CEO Chris Lischewski released the following statemement yesterday:

Bumble Bee Mourns Loss of Employee Jose Melena

An Open Letter to the Community from Bumble Bee Foods

On Thursday, October 11, our colleague Jose Melena lost his life in a tragic accident at our processing facility in Santa Fe Springs, California. All of us at Bumble Bee Foods were shocked and saddened by this loss, and as we search for answers, our prayers and support are with the Melena family.

Investigations into this incident are being conducted by the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (CalOSHA) and Bumble Bee. While we’re still working to understand just what happened that morning, we do know that Jose, a highly respected six-year veteran of the plant, was found by his co-workers inside one of the plant’s commercial pressure cookers shortly before 7:00 a.m. These 38-foot-long cylindrical chambers, called retorts, are where baskets of sealed cans of product are sterilized before heading to the final labeling stage of the canning process. Jose was a skilled operator and had worked with this equipment for many years.

Upon discovering the accident, plant management immediately called for emergency medical help and contacted both the police and CalOSHA. Unfortunately, Jose was pronounced dead at the scene. While CalOSHA cleared the factory to resume operations on Thursday afternoon, we shut down the facility for three days out of respect for Jose and in recognition of the emotional impact this had on his co-workers. Grief counselors have been available to our employees ever since the tragedy. All product being processed at the time of the accident was discarded safely, even though there was no product contamination.

At this point, it is still not clear how this could have happened. From a process standpoint, it takes between 20 and 30 minutes to load a retort with about 12 to 14 baskets of canned product to be sterilized. The baskets are loaded by an employee operating a pallet jack. This was Jose’s primary responsibility. Once the baskets are finished processing, they are pulled out of the retort by a forklift. We are not aware of any such accident ever occurring before with this machinery.

As we continue to work with CalOSHA, we are implementing mandatory retraining of all personnel on standard operating procedures, reviewing all safety procedures and stressing the importance of following procedures to maximize employee safety. We expect the coroner’s office to announce the conclusions of their investigation shortly. The Whittier police department has informed us that they have ruled out foul play. And CalOSHA has stated publicly that their investigation could take several months to complete.

Most important of all, we have been reaching out and providing support to the Melena family during this very difficult time. We miss Jose very much and our hearts go out to his wife, children, grandchildren and friends. This unprecedented tragedy has been devastating for all of us at Bumble Bee.

We appreciate the support we have received from so many people and thank you for your understanding during this trying time.

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to ISHN.

You must login or register in order to post a comment.



Image Galleries

Scenes from the World of Safety

Sights, signs & symbols from the National Safety Congress & Expo held in San Diego, CA, September 15-18

4/14/15 2:00 pm EDT

RISK-BASED SAFETY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM: Key Components for Applying Risk Tools to EHS Efforts

Join us for this webinar as we discuss how you can make effective use of risk analysis and risk management technology to guide efforts within your organization. We will distinguish between risk analysis and risk management; and identify some of the software tools that will help proactively identify, document, mitigate, and prevent high-risk events. You will learn how to improve compliance, reduce risk, and cut costs in your organization using these automated tools.

ISHN Magazine


2015 April

Check out ISHN's April issue, which features content about lockout-tagout, heat stress, hearing protection and more!

Table Of Contents Subscribe


M:\General Shared\__AEC Store Katie Z\AEC Store\Images\ISHN\safetyfourth.jpg
Safety Engineering, 4th Edition

A practical, solutions-driven reference, Safety Engineering, 4th edition, has been completely revised and updated to reflect many of today’s issues in safety.

More Products

For Distributors Only - January 2015



For Distributors Only is ISHN's niche brand standard-sized magazine supplement aimed at an audience of 2,000 U.S. distributors that sell safety products. Circulation only goes to distributors. 



Facebook logo Twitter YouTubeLinkedIn Google + icon

ishn infographics

2012 US workplace deathsCheck out ISHN's new Infographic page! Learn more about worker safety through these interactive images. CLICK HERE to view the page.