Bumble Bee Foods will pay a record $6 million to settle criminal charges filed after a worker burned to death nearly three years ago inside an industrial oven packed with canned tuna, reported the Los Angeles Times.
The settlement represents the largest payout in the criminal prosecution of a workplace safety case involving a single victim in California, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
Under the settlement agreements, Bumble Bee will spend $3 million to buy new ovens at its plant in the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Fe Springs that employees will not be required to enter and implement other safety measures.
The company will also pay $1.5 million in restitution to the family of victim Jose Melena, $750,000 to the district attorney's environmental enforcement fund and another $750,000 in additional fines, penalties and court costs.
Once it complies with those conditions, Bumble Bee, which is owned by private equity firm Lion Capital LLP, will be allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge, according to the district attorney's office.
"While this resolution will help bring closure with the district attorney's office, we will never forget the unfathomable loss of our colleague Jose Melena and we are committed to ensuring that employee safety remains a top priority at all our facilities," Bumble Bee said in a written statement.
Prosecutors say Angel Rodriguez, the plant's director of operations, has agreed to perform 320 hours of community service, pay $11,400 in fines and other penalties and take workplace safety classes. If he completes those conditions he will be allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor.
Editors Insight: This horrifying report serves as a reminder that the food industry’s focus on preventing foodborne illnesses should not overshadow the importance of occupational safety for food workers. Hopefully, this unfortunate event will remind Food Logistics readers of the need to be proactive in protecting worker safety.
Occupational safety hazards exist at all points of the food and beverage supply chain. All companies have to comply with OSHA regulations.
Is your company doing everything possible to protect employees from safety risks? Do you have an employee incentive program to encourage employees to follow safe practices?
No industry has more responsibility for the nation’s wellbeing than our industry. This tragic incident serves as a sober reminder. 8-17-15 By Elliot Maras