Employee trapped, dies inside industrial oven

On April 27, 2015, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office filed charges against Bumble Bee Foods and two employees with willfully violating worker safety rules, allegedly causing the Oct. 11, 2012, death of an employee who became trapped inside an industrial oven at the company's Santa Fe Springs, California, plant.

The accident occurred when Bumble Bee employee Jose Melena entered a 35 foot cylindrical oven, used to sterilize cans of tuna, as part of his normal duties. Coworkers were unaware that Melena was inside the oven when they loaded multiple carts, collectively containing about 12,000 pounds of tuna, closed the front door, and started the oven. The victim inadvertently became trapped in the back of the super-heated, pressurized steam cooker and died.

During the two-hour heat sterilization process, the oven's internal temperature rose to about 270 degrees. Melena's severely burned remains were discovered by a coworker, prosecutors said. Melena worked for the company for about six years.

On April 27, 2015, Bumble Bee's former Safety Manager Saul Florez, the company's Director of Plant Operations Angel Rodriguez, and Bumble Bee Foods LLC were charged with three felony counts each of an OSHA violation causing death.

In response, Bumble Bee issued a statement and is exploring all of its legal options.

If convicted as charged, Florez and Rodriguez face a maximum sentence of three years in state prison and/or a $250,000 fine. San Diego-based Bumble Bee Foods faces a maximum fine of $1.5 million.

For information about the dangers associated with working in confined spaces, click here.