SANTA FE SPRINGS, Calif — Bumble Bee Foods has been fined nearly $74,000 and cited for six safety violations after an employee was cooked to death a in an industrial pressure cooker.
According to a 25-page report by the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health, Jose Melena, 62, was responsible for loading the 54-inch by 36-foot ovens with 12 rolling metal baskets full of tuna cans. The ovens are used to sterilize aluminum cans and to process the tuna in the cans.
At the start of his 4 a.m. shift on Oct. 11, 2012, Melena was ordered by his supervisor to load one particular oven. Sometime before 5 a.m., according to the report, Melena entered the oven to make a repair or to adjust a chain inside the machine.
Assuming Melena was in the bathroom, a second employee loaded the oven with the baskets.
“Around the same time, the supervisor questioned why the employee was using the pallet jack and began asking employees if they had seen” Melena, the report said.
The report states an announcement was made on the intercom. Workers also began looking for Melena. They discovered that his vehicle was still in the parking lot. After searching for nearly an hour and a half, the boiler operator suggested that they open the last oven that was loaded.
The workers waited about 30 minutes for the oven to cool down before they could open it. Melena’s body was eventually found at the exit side of the oven. Firefighters pronounced him dead at the scene.