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Plant faces charges after worker burned to death

Tennessee residents may have heard about a worker who was accidentally burned to death in a California food processing plant on Oct. 11, 2012. Authorities stated that the company, Bumble Bee Foods, and several of its employees are now facing multiple charges.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health stated that a 65-year-old employee went inside the 35-foot-long oven to do his regular maintenance work when another employee, who thought the man was in the restroom, loaded 6 tons of canned tuna into the oven, closed the door and turned the temperature up to 270 degrees. Two hours later, after employees and a supervisor searched for the victim, he was found inside the oven.

On April 27, Los Angeles prosecutors charged two of the company’s employees each with three counts of willfully violating regulations outlined by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration. Authorities allege that the two managers failed to implement a safety plan, disregarded safety precautions about confined spaces and did not follow protocol regarding the operation of equipment and machinery that an employee is working on. If convicted, the two employees, a 42-year-old safety manager and a 63-year-old operations director, may have to pay about $250,000 in fines and spend a maximum of three years in prison, according to the report. Additionally, the company may have to pay up to $1.5 million in fines if convicted of the charges.

Most large companies are required to carry workers’ compensation benefits in the event any of their employees suffer a workplace accident or illness. Immediate family members of workers who die from their job-related injuries are entitled to file for the benefits which may reimburse them for the costs of their loved one’s funeral as well as a portion of the decedent’s income that the grieving family members will not receive because of the death. However, if the fatal accident was due to negligence, a lawyer might advise a family to file a wrongful death claim instead.

Source: USA Today, “Bumble Bee Foods charged after man cooked with tuna,” April 28, 2015

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