Bumble Bee to Pay $6M for Death of Employee in Oven

Bumble Bee to Pay $6M for Death of Employee in Oven
A can of Bumble Bee tuna. File photo by littleny/Shutterstock

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 12 (Danielle Haynes) — Bumble Bee Foods has agreed to pay a $6 million settlement over the 2012 death of a worker who was burned alive in an oven, a sum the Los Angeles district attorney’s office says is the largest ever paid for a workplace safety violation in California.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced Wednesday the company must pay $1.5 million restitution to the family of Jose Melena for willfully violating worker safety rules.

The 62-year-old father of six was inside the oven when his co-workers, who did not know he was inside, loaded 12,000 pounds of tuna into the oven and turned on the oven’s pressure cooker. His burned remains were discovered two hours later.
As part of the settlement, Bumble Bee must also spend $3 million replacing all its outdated ovens with new, automated ones that would never require a worker to step foot inside. Another $750,000 must be paid to the District Attorney’s Environmental Enforcement Fund, as well as $750,000 in fines, penalties and court costs.

Bumble Bee’s Director of Plant Operations Angel Rodriguez has also agreed to complete 320 hours of community service and pay $11,400 in fines. Meanwhile, co-defendant Saul Florez pleaded guilty to a felony count of willfully violating lockout tagout rules and proximately causing Melena’s death. He must complete 30 days of community labor and pay $19,000 in fines.

In a statement emailed to UPI, Bumble Bee Foods called the incident a “tragic accident.”

“While this resolution will help bring closure with the district attorney’s office, we will never forget the unfathomable loss of our colleague, Jose Melena, and we are committed to ensuring that employee safety remains a top priority at all our facilities.”


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