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Cal/OSHA investigating horrific industrial oven accident at tuna plant

A food processing plant here in Southern California was recently the scene of a horrific industrial accident that has inspectors with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) searching for clues and industry insiders wondering how something like this could possibly have happened.

Last Thursday, 62-year-old Jose M. was working a late shift at the Bumble Bee tuna plant in Santa Fe Springs, placing tuna into large commercial steamers known as retort machines. For reasons as yet undetermined, he somehow managed to become trapped inside one of these machines while it was operational.

Paramedics were immediately summoned to the Bumble Bee plant following a report of an industrial accident, but by then it was too late. Sadly, Jose M. was pronounced dead at the scene.

"The entire Bumble Bee Foods family is saddened by the tragic loss of our colleague, and our thoughts and prayers are with [Jose M.'s] family," read a statement from the company.

Interestingly, Chicken of the Sea has come forward in the aftermath of the accident to describe its cooking process, which is likely very similar to the one employed by Bumble Bee.

Specifically, they indicated that the most companies utilize a process whereby individual carts containing cans of tuna are loaded into the retort machines by two workers. These carts, in turn, are outfitted with a bracket that has to be removed by key.

"There is no possible way to close that door with the bracket in place," said a Chicken of the Sea official. "The padlock and a tag [which are needed to close the door] are attached to it. It's an OSHA requirement."

Thus far, Cal/OSHA has not made any preliminary findings into how Jose M. become trapped in the retort machine. A final report on the matter is not expected for several months.

It should be noted that the Bumble Bee plant where this occurred has not received a single Cal/OSHA citation since it first opened 22 years ago. Furthermore, Bumble Bee also has a reputation for being a good corporate citizen.

Stay tuned for updates on this story from our workers' compensation defense law firm ...

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

Sources:

The Los Angeles Times, "Mystery over Bumble Bee tuna worker cooked to death continues," Ari Bloomekatz and Shelby Grad, Oct. 17, 2012

The Long Beach Press-Telegram, "Bumble Bee tuna plant had clean safety record prior to Wilmington man's death," Mike Sprague, Oct. 18, 2012 

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