The death of a worker who was accidentally cooked to death in an industrial pressure cooker has resulted in fines for Bumble Bee tuna company.
Cal/OSHA has issued $73,995 in fines 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 by law, and
- provide permit-required confined space training to employees working inside the ovens.
The last two violations alone accounted for $25,000 in fines.
On Oct. 11, 2013, employee Jose Melena, 62, had been assigned to load a particular oven with large baskets stacked with tuna at Bumble Bee’s plant in Santa Fe Springs. He entered the 54-inch by 36-foot oven to make an adjustment to a chain inside.
When Melena wasn’t seen for awhile, a search for him was conducted because his car was still in the facility’s parking lot. After searching for 90 minutes, an employee suggested looking in the last oven that had been loaded.
Workers let the oven cool for about 30 minutes before opening the doors and looking inside, where they found Melena.
Responding firefighters pronounced the badly burned man dead at the scene. An autopsy confirmed Melena died from burns received in the oven.
Although the Bumble Bee plant hadn’t previously received Cal/OSHA citations, the agency’s investigation into Melena’s death uncovered employee injuries that hadn’t been reported as required.
One Bumble Bee employee had a finger amputated after it got caught in a chute. Another employee suffered a fractured skull after falling from a forklift. Both injuries were never reported to Cal/OSHA.
A statement from Bumble Bee says, “We will be reviewing the citations with Cal/OSHA representatives in the coming weeks to resolve any disagreements regarding the citations. Safety is a top priority; we are cooperating fully with authorities, including Cal/OSHA, and have reviewed all safety procedures with plant employees and stressed the importance of following procedures to maximize employee safety.”