Safety and OSHA News

Safety manager faces prison: Worker fatally burned in industrial oven

A former safety manager, an operations director and Bumble Bee Foods LLC all face criminal charges in connection with the 2012 death of an employee inside an industrial oven.

Former Bumble Bee Safety Manager Saul Florez, the company’s Director of Plant Operations Angel Rodriguez and Bumble Bee Foods were charged with three felony counts each of an OSHA violation causing death. The Los Angeles County District Attorney brought the charges.

On Oct. 11, 2012, Jose Melena, 62, entered a 35-foot-long oven as part of his job at Bumble Bee’s Santa Fe Springs plant.

Co-workers didn’t know Melena was inside. They loaded carts containing about 12,000 pounds of tuna into the oven, closed the door and started it.

During a two-hour sterilization process, the oven’s temperature rose to about 270 degrees. A co-worker discovered Melena’s severely burned remains.

If convicted of the charges, Florez and Rodriguez face a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Bumble Bee faces a maximum fine of $1.5 million.

In spring 2014, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey launched a new program to send investigators and prosecutors to the scenes of workplace deaths and environmental threats. Staffers from the OSHA and Environmental Crimes Rollout Program visit the sites immediately after incidents are reported. The staffers help preserve evidence and document eyewitness accounts. The investigators and prosecutors work with Cal/OSHA staff.

Cal/OSHA issued $73,995 in fines to Bumble Bee for six violations, five of them serious, for failing to:

  • perform inspections or audits related to the energy control procedures for the production area
  • determine whether the industrial ovens constituted permit-required confined spaces
  • post signs or notify employees regarding the confined space created by the ovens
  • develop and implement a written permit-required confined space program
  • implement permit-required confined space program elements as mandated, and
  • provide permit-required confined space training to employee working inside the ovens.

Bumble Bee issued a statement: “We disagree with and are disappointed by the charges filed by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office.” The company says it’s exploring all of its legal options.

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Comments

  1. goddess1012 says:

    This is so sad. I agree, they need to be charged with criminal negligence. I am glad to see OSHA starting to cramp down on things. Maybe with harsher punishments and bigger fines, company’s will start getting the idea that safety is not just a game, and start getting serious! I mean, even without the confined space reg’s; where’s your lockout tagout?! Laziness leads to negligence leads to preventable incidents. I wish OSHA ans MSHA both would triple the crackdown. It will only take a couple before they start being taken seriously.

  2. Coltsfan01 says:

    I’m not condoning or condemning the company. I just know that articles quite often, do not provide ALL of the relevant facts. With only hearing one side of the situation, it’s impossible to place blame. Goddess, LOTO only works if employees follow the protocol. You are making the assumption the company has no LOTO or they were negligent in it’s implementation. That MAY or MAY NOT be true. You cannot lead to a conclusion based on assumptions and few facts. Emotional knee jerks don’t help….facts tell the story. The article falls short of providing the necessary facts in drawing a conclusion. The sad part is that a family lost someone due to a preventable accident.

  3. Malcolm McFarland says:

    In my experience, the emphasis on issues such as safety starts at the top. It is the old adage – what interests my boss, fascinates me. If the CEO is not interested then neither are those below him. This is then the start of a general malaise that spreads throughout the company.
    When was the last time you saw a CEO walking by him/herself on the shop floor asking questions re safety related to the job or asking for ideas to improve safety within the organisation or even giving feedback to individual workers?
    A successful statutory prosecution make it easier for the family to sue for negligence.
    My sympathies are with the family – I wonder how much support was initially given to the family and indeed what ongoing support has been offered. Will the company for example fund a College scholarship for the children?

  4. Kehinde Tajudeen Rabiu says:

    Please let the control measure includes entry log sheet and let’s get board where the oven entrant will put his I’d card and a safety officer should be place there for proper monitoring of the entrant and all workers must be informed about the changes so that whenever they see any I’d card on the log board that is they must not start or load anything in the oven and I believe this will really workout well for.the company. Secondly they can introduce an. Isolation method by lockout and Tagout the oven when someone needs to work on n the oven so this too will make people save from roasting in the oven again.

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