Bumble Bee Foods to pay $6M in fees for horrific death of worker

By MoneyTimes

Aug 14, 2015 02:30 AM EDT

Three years ago, Jose Melena, 62, was burned alive inside the Bumble Bee Foods industrial oven. On Wednesday, Bumble Bee Foods was required to pay $6 million total in fees for the incident.

According to prosecutors, Melena, who was already working for 6 years for the company, went inside the 35-foot long oven that cooks tuna at 270 degrees for two hours. Unknown to his co-workers who loaded 6 tons of tuna, they closed the door and turned the oven on. Melena's remains were discovered inside the oven.

This payout is deemed the largest one in California involving safety violations in the workplace with just one person.

Two of Melena's co-workers were charged for the incident - Angel Rodriguez, Director of Plant Operations and Saul Florez, previously Bumble Bee Foods' safety manager. Rodriguez was required to do community service for 320 hours, needs to take classes on lockout tag out and to pay $11,400 in fines. Florez, who pleaded guilty for disobeying lockout tag out rules, is sentenced to 3 years of formal probation, required to pay $19,000 in fines, do 30 days of community service and attend classes on lockout tag out.

The $6 million settlement includes $3 million for replacement of antiquated machines, $750,000 to the DA's Environmental Enforcement Fund for investigation and prosecution charges, $750,000 for penalties, fines and court costs and $1.5 million as compensation to Melena's family.

The company will also be required to set up video cameras in their ovens aside from updating their ovens so that employees will not have to go inside to clean the ovens. All workers and managers of the company will also be asked to undergo safety training.

Once Bumble Bee will be able to fulfil the demands, Bumble Bee will be allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor of failure to maintain and implement an effective safety program for their employees. The company will also be required to admit their guilt in a public statement. Charged co-workers of Melena will also be required to do the same.

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