Bumble Bee Foods, best known for its canned tuna products, will pay $6 million for the gruesome death of Jose Melena, the 62-year-old man killed inside one of the company’s ovens after workers loaded the oven with more than 12,000 pounds of tuna while he was working inside the oven, closed the door and turned on the pressure cooker.
Hitting temperatures approximately 270-degrees Fahrenheit, Melena, a father of six, died before the oven was turned off.
Now, Bumble Bee Foods will pay $6 million for “willfully violating worker safety rules,” reports the Los Angeles Times.
“You don’t have warm blood running in your veins if you’re not affected by the way this guy died. It’s horrific,” Hoon Chun, consumer protection division assistant head deputy for the district attorney, who helped prosecute the case, told the Times. “I cannot imagine a worse result of violating safety rules than something like this.”
Bumble Bee will pay $1.5 million in restitution to Melena’s family, and another $1.5 million will go to fines, penalties, court costs, and the district attorney’s Environmental Enforcement Fund. $3 million will go to replace the tuna ovens—including the one Melena was killed inside—with automated ovens. The new ovens will prevent workers from having to enter the ovens for repairs.
The tuna company will also have to install safety measures including video cameras, adding training protocols, and conducting frequent safety audits.
“I hope it sends a message that safety rules are not a recommendation, they are a legal requirement,” Chun said.
“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,” Bumble Bee Foods said in a statement.
Former safety manager and the director of plant operations were both charged with three felony counts of “committing an occupational safety and health violation that caused a death,” reports the Times. Both can have their felony convictions reduced to misdemeanors in 18 months if they comply with plea agreement conditions.
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