Jose MelenaSANTA FE SPRINGS, CA – Three years ago we reported on the horrible death of Jose Melena, the Bumble Bee Foods employee who was accidentally cooked inside an industrial ovenNow the company has been ordered to pay $6 million to settle criminal charges.

Melena, a 62-year-old father of six, had been employed with the company for five years. One of his responsibilities was loading 54-inch by 36-foot ovens with 12 rolling metal baskets full of tuna cans. These ovens then sterilize the cans while also processing the tuna.

On Oct. 11, 2012, Melena was ordered by his supervisor to load one particular oven. According to a state regulator report, Melena entered the oven to make a repair or to adjust a chain inside the oven, leaving a pallet jack with the baskets outside the entrance.

While Melena was inside the oven a second employee, who thought Melena was in the bathroom, loaded the oven with the tuna and turned it on. When it was noticed that Melena was nowhere to be seen, an announcement was made over the intercom. After an hour and a half of searching it was suggested they open the last oven that was loaded.

When they looked inside, they found Melena’s dead body at the exit side of the oven after being cooked at 270-degrees for almost two hours.

In 2013, Bumble Bee Foods was fined nearly $74,000 for failing to evaluate and identify the ovens in the production area as hazardous and permit-required spaces. They were also faulted for not informing workers about the areas with “danger” signs or implementing a program to address safety precautions while working inside the large ovens, as required by law.

But that was the least of their worries. They were also looking at felony charges filed against themselves and two of their employees. On Wednesday, a settlement was reached – the two employees would plea guilty and Bumble Bee Foods would pay $6 million.

“The settlement is the largest known payout in a California criminal prosecution of workplace safety violations involving a single victim,” Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a press release.

Bumble Bee Foods will have to spend $3 million to replace the 10 ovens with updated ones that do not require employees to enter them, pay $1.5 million in restitution to Melena’s family, and $1.5 million for fines and penalties.

Former safety manager, Saul Florez, was fined $19,000 and 30 days of community labor after pleading guilty to a single felony count of violating a workplace safety rule that caused a death. The plant’s director of operations, Angel Rodriguez, must pay $11,400 and complete 320 hours of community service after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor.

Both men and Bumble Bee Foods will also be required to make public statements of guilt. Melena’s family agreed to the deal, but have yet to make a public statement.

As horrific as this sounds, being cooked inside an industrial tuna steamer is just one of horrible ways we have reported on people dying at work. We have articles on people drowning in pinto beans and chocolate, being chewed up inside meat grinders and wood chippers,  getting stuck inside industrial dryers,  flattened by paper rolling machines, and even one guy who died from an exploding beer keg.

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