Bumble Bee Settlement: Seafood Company To Pay $6 Million In Employee Death

Bumble Bee has agreed to a $6 million settlement in the gruesome death of an employee. In addition to $1.5 million in restitution to the employee’s family, the seafood company agreed to spend $3 million to update their equipment. They were also ordered to pay $1.5 million in court costs and fines.

On October 11, 2012, Jose Melena climbed inside a 35-foot industrial pressure cooker at the Santa Fe Springs Bumble Bee seafood processing plant. As reported by Fox News, the 62-year-old man entered the machine to perform a routine repair.

As they were unaware Melena was inside, his co-workers began loading cans of tuna inside the machine for sterilization. Once it was full, the employees closed the door and turned on the heat.

The temperature inside the machine reached 270 degrees. As he was unable to escape, Jose Melena was literally burned to death. His body was not discovered until the sanitization cycle was complete and 12,000 cans of tuna were removed from the pressure cooker.

As a result of the heinous accident, Bumble Bee Foods was criminally charged with violating workplace safety standards. Angel Rodriguez, former director of plant operations, and Saul Florez, former safety manager, were also criminally charged with violating occupational safety and health regulations.

On Wednesday, Bumble Bee reached a settlement with the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

As reported by Los Angeles Times, the seafood company agreed to spend $3 million to replace their pressure cookers with models that do not require employees to climb inside for cleaning or maintenance.

The company also agreed to install cameras throughout the facility and provide addition safety training. Per the agreement, Bumble Bee Foods has 18 months to comply with the terms of the settlement.

Former safety manager Saul Florez pleaded guilty to “willfully violating work safety rules resulting in Melena’s death.” He was sentenced to 30 days of community service and three years of probation. He was also ordered to pay $19,000 in fines.

Former director of plant operations Angel Rodriguez also pleaded guilty of willfully violating work safety rules. He was sentenced to 320 hours of community service and ordered to pay $11,400 in fines.

Although Florez and Rodriguez both plead guilty to felonies, the charges will be “reduced to misdemeanors if they comply with the conditions of their plea agreements.”

The Bumble Bee settlement will not bring back Jose Melena. However, officials hope the incident will prevent similar accidents in the future.

[Image via Shutterstock]