Bumble Bee Foods and two of the company’s managers were charged with felony safety violations this week over the death of a worker who was burned alive in an industrial pressure cooker.
How it happened
The charges stem from an accident on Oct. 11, 2012 in which 62-year-old Jose Melena entered a 35-foot oven at the company’s Santa Fe Springs plant to effect repairs. Unaware that Melena was inside the oven, other workers loaded approximately 12,000 pounds of tuna into it, shut the door and activated the oven, which reached 270 degrees.
News sources said Melena’s charred remains were found by another worker.
In addition to the company, Los Angeles County prosecutors have charged Operations Director Angel Rodriguez and former safety manager Saul Florez each with three counts of violating OSHA rules.
Rodriguez and Florez could face up to three years in prison and fines up to $250,000 if convicted of all charges, prosecutors said. The company, which had about $1 billion in sales in 2014, could face $1,5 million in fines.
The charges specify that the company and the two men willfully violated rules that require implementing a safety plan, rules for workers entering confined spaces, and a procedure to keep machinery or equipment turned off if someone's working on it.
Bumble Bee Foods was previously cited by Cal-OSHA for failing to properly assess the danger to employees working in large ovens. The company appealed the $74,000 penalty.
"We remain devastated by the loss of our colleague Jose Melena in the tragic accident," the company said in a statement. "We disagree with and are disappointed by the charges filed by the Los Angeles district attorney's office."