Bumble Bee Foods, the maker of a number of canned seafood and poultry products, has been charged in the death of an employee who was locked inside an industrial oven and cooked along with several thousand pounds of tuna, reports The Associated Press.
The company and two of its employees, plant operations director Angel Rodriguez and former safety manager Saul Florez, were charged with three counts of violating Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules, resulting in the death of 62-year-old Jose Melena, who had entered the 35-foot-long oven to perform maintenance.
Rodriguez and Florez closed the oven after loading it with 12,000 pounds of tuna, and turned the oven on for two hours, during which time it would reach 270 degrees. Melena’s body was discovered when the oven was opened, according to the AP.
Bumble Bee Foods has already faced a citation from the state’s occupational safety agency, which found once before that the company failed to assess the danger to employees working inside large ovens, and was fined $74,000.
The current charges contend that all three figures “willfully violated rules that require: implementing a safety plan; rules for workers entering confined spaces; and a procedure in place to keep machinery or equipment turned off if someone's working on it.”
Both men face up to three years in prison and fines up to $250,000, while Bumble Bee Foods faces a maximum fine of $1.5 million.
"We remain devastated by the loss of our colleague Jose Melena in the tragic accident," the company said in a statement. "We disagree with and are disappointed by the charges filed by the Los Angeles district attorney's office."
The company, which appealed the penalties, denies willful violations of safety regulations.