“Bumble Bee Foods Agrees to $6M Settlement in Confined Space - Worker Oven Death -  Management Personnel Charged”

17th August 2015
  • Worker died inside an industrial pressure cooker oven loading pallets of tuna
  • Food company pay $3M for plant upgrades, have agreed the $6M settlement and the victims family is still entitled to sue for compensation
  • Safety Manager & Operations Director have both been sentenced and also face fines.

Jack Benton - Source Article

FILE - This Monday, Oct. 15, 2012 file photo shows the Bumble Bee tuna processing plant in Santa Fe Springs, Calif. Bumble Bee Foods has agreed to pay $6 million Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015, to settle criminal charges in the death of a Los Angeles-area worker who was cooked in an oven with tons of tuna. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)

Jose Melena was loading tons of tuna into industrial ovens at Bumble Bee Foods when any worker’s worst nightmare occurred — he got trapped inside and the massive pressure cooker was turned on.

Melena’s grisly death in a 270-degree oven three years ago led to a $6 million agreement by Bumble Bee on Wednesday to settle criminal charges in what Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey said was the largest payout in a California workplace-violation death. The sum was four times greater than the maximum fines the company faced.

“This is the worst circumstances of death I have ever, ever witnessed,” said Deputy District Attorney Hoon Chun, who noted that he had tried more than 40 murder cases over two decades. “I think any person would prefer to be — if they had to die some way — would prefer to be shot or stabbed than to be slowly cooked in an oven. “

Melena, 62, perished at the seafood company’s Santa Fe Springs plant after a co-worker mistakenly believed he was in the bathroom and loaded six tons of canned tuna into the oven after he had stepped inside.

The company didn’t have safety procedures that would have required the equipment be turned off with an employee inside or provide an escape route or a spotter to keep watch with a worker in a confined space, Hoon said.

Need Training?

In a rare prosecution of a workplace fatality, Bumble Bee, its plant Operations Director Angel Rodriguez and former safety manager Saul Florez were each charged with three counts of violating Occupational Safety & Health Administration rules that caused a death.

Each party reached a different plea agreement Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Bumble Bee agreed to plead guilty in January 2017 to a misdemeanor of having willfully failed to provide an effective safety program. First, however, it must complete several safety measures that include spending $3 million to upgrade ovens so workers can’t get trapped inside and providing worker training.

Florez, 42, of Whittier was sentenced to three years of probation and will face fines and penalties of about $19,000 after pleading guilty to a single felony count of violating a workplace safety rule that caused a death.

Rodriguez, 63, of Riverside, agreed to plead guilty in 18 months to a misdemeanor and pay about $11,000 after he completes 320 hours of community service and worker safety courses.

The two men had faced up to three years in prison and fines up to $250,000. The company had faced fines up to $1.5 million.

Melena’s family will receive $1.5 million under the settlement. It does not prevent them from also suing the company or receiving workers’ compensation funds, Hoon said.

“Certainly, nothing will bring back our dad, and our mom will not have her husband back, but much can be done to ensure this terrible accident does not happen again,” the family said in a statement.

Melena, 62, had been loading pallets of canned tuna into 35-foot-long ovens at the company’s Santa Fe Springs plant before dawn Oct. 11, 2012.

When a supervisor noticed him missing, an announcement was made on the intercom and employees searched for him in the facility and parking lot, according to a report by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

His body was found two hours later after the pressure cooker was turned off, cooled and opened.


Confined Spaces Training

A confined space can be any place of an enclosed nature where there is a risk of death or serious injury from harzardous substances or dangerous conditions.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 state that;

"You must carry out a suitable and suficient assessment of the risk for all work activities for the purpose of deciding what measures are necessary for safety".

If the assessment identifies there is a risk of death or serious injury resulting from work in a confined space then you must adhere to the Confined Space Regulations 1997. These regulations state that you should try to avoid entry to the confined space but;

"If entry to a confined space is unavoidable, follow a safe system of work; and put in place adequate emergency arrangements before the work starts".

Element Safety can provide everything you need to comply with the regulations and keep you safe.

Get in Touch: phone 01143 421 421

Or enter your email address to join our mailing list or your phone number to request a free ring-back...


Confined Space Awareness & Permit Systems (CSA)

1 day classroom course for managers /supervisors requiring an understanding of confined spaces and the systems used to maintain safety.

Learn more











Latest news


Worker Oven Death – Management Personnel Charged

Confined space - Worker Oven Death $6M Settlement & Management Personnel Chargedread more...

School Rooflight Fall

Bricklayer dies in school rooflight plungeread more...


Contact Element Safety

Phone: 01143 421 421
Post: Element Safety Ltd
Dannemora Drive
S9 5DF
Linked in

Mark Dickens

Richard Oliver







This website uses cookies for statistical usage data. By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of cookies. Don't show this again