05/10/2013 04:45 EDT

Jose Melena Death: Bumble Bee Foods Fined Nearly $74,000


A tuna company has been fined almost $74,000 and slapped with six safety violations after one of its employees burned to death in an industrial-sized pressure cooker in October 2012, The Los Angeles Times reports.

The fines and citations came about seven months after authorities began investigating Jose Melena’s accidental death at Bumble Bee Foods LLC. Melena was a father of six and worked at the company for five years.

A 25-page report from the California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Occupational Safety and Health stated that the company failed to identify the ovens as hazardous or identify the area they were located in as requiring safety permits, according to the Daily News.

"Employees entered the ... ovens to perform maintenance duties and/or make adjustments to a chain inside the ovens," according to the Cal/OSHA citations document. "This was an unsafe practice which exposed employees to safety hazards for many years.”

According to the report, Melena was told by a supervisor to load one of the ovens, which are used to sterilize aluminum cans and process canned tuna. He went inside the oven to repair something and left the device he was using to load it outside.

A second employee, thinking Melena had been in the restroom, thought he wasn’t using the loading device and took it, then proceeded to fill the oven.

“Around the same time, the supervisor questioned why the employee was using the [device] and began asking employees if they had seen" Melena, the report said.

Soon after, the supervisor and other employees began searching for Melena and noticed his car was still in the parking lot, the report said.

The employees had to wait 30 minutes for the oven to cool down before searching for Melena inside.


Bumble Bee Food representatives said in a statement that they would review the ruling.

"Safety is a top priority; we are cooperating fully with authorities, including Cal/OSHA, and have reviewed all safety procedures with plant employees and stressed the importance of following procedures to maximize employee safety.”