In every industry, it is extremely important to ensure that workers have access to a safe, healthy workplace with measures in place to protect them in the event of an accident. Typically, this means instituting basic protocols and working with urgent care centers and local doctors to provide occupational health services. But while these steps are often sufficient to prevent and treat on-the-job accidents, some reason cases have proven that it is important for businesses to remain vigilant when it comes to safety. Take the recent experiences of Bumble Bee Foods, for example: the tuna fish producer is currently facing charges connected to the horrific death of one of its workers in 2012.
On October 11, 2012, Jose Melena, 62, entered the industrial oven at the Bumble Bee Foods plant in Santa Fe Springs, CA to load several racks of tuna cans. The company used the oven to sterilize its products, and Melena was responsible for making sure the containers were properly placed. Unfortunately, other employees began loading their own racks, unaware that their coworker was deep inside the 35-foot cylindrical structure. They loaded 12,000 cans as usual, closed the door and turned on the oven, which reached temperatures as high as 270 degrees over the course of two hours. Only when this process was completed did a fellow worker discover Melena’s burned remains inside.
Now, almost three years later, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has announced that it has charged Bumble Bee Foods and two supervisors with willfully violating worker safety laws. The defendants, former safety manager Saul Florez and the director of plant operations Angel Rodriguez, are each facing three felony counts of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violation resulting in death. Both are due in court on May 27 and could face fines of $25,000 and a three year prison sentence if they are convicted. Meanwhile, Bumble Bee Foods could be fined as much as $1.5 million. The company, which was acquired by Thai Union Frozen Foods last year, has stated that it disagrees with the charges.
While the case is currently wrapped up in dry legal drama, the fact of the matter is that Melena’s death was a tragic accident that likely could have been prevented. Not every company likely works with appliances as dangerous as a giant oven, but it is still worth checking over your safety protocols and plans. Does your company have effective safety measures in place to prevent accidents? Have you contracted occupational health services in the event of an injury? If not, now is the time to focus on these steps, lest your business face legal charges and other issues as well. Contact occupational health services like urgent care clinics in your area today.