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File this under, “So you think YOU are having a bad day!?”

Imagine going to work early to do your job, only to become part of the manufactured product!

That’s what happened to Jose Melena, a worker at Bumble Bee Food, as he was performing routine maintenance on one of the company’s 35- ft industrial ovens at the Sante Fe Spring plant.

On Oct 11, 2012, a co-worker at the plant accidentally filled the pressure cooker with 12,000 pounds of tuna and it was turned on. The worker believed that Melena was taking a bio break.

When a supervisor noticed that 62-year old Melena was missing, the employees began a search for him in the facility and parking lot, according to a report by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

They would find Melena’s body two hours later after the pressure cooker, which reached a temperature of 270 degrees, was turned off and opened.  Melena had been cooked to death with tons of tuna.

The company, its plant Operations Director Angel Rodriguez, and former safety manager Saul Florez were each charged with three counts of violating Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules that caused a death.

The charges specify that the company and the two men willfully violated rules that require implementing a safety plan, rules for workers entering confined spaces, and a procedure to keep machinery or equipment turned off if someone’s working on it.

Rodriguez, 63, of Riverside, and Florez, 42, of Whittier, could face up to three years in prison and fines up to $250,000 if convicted of all charges, prosecutors said.  Bumble Bee Foods faces a maximum fine of $1.5 million. Prosecutions of workplace violations are uncommon — even in fatalities.

 



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