Tuna company agrees to $6M settlement in worker oven death

Jose Melena, who died in an accident at Bumble Bee Foods in Santa Fe Springs, is seen in this photo provided by family. (KABC)

Bumble Bee Foods will pay a $6 million settlement for violating workplace safety rules, which caused the 2012 death of a worker who became trapped in an industrial oven at the company's Santa Fe plant.

Jose Melena, 62, was performing maintenance in a 35-foot-long oven in October 2012 when co-workers loaded it with 12,000 pounds of canned tuna and turned it on.

Temperatures reached 270 degrees during a two-hour process to cook and sterilize the tuna. Melena's body was found when the oven was opened.

The payout will include $3 million to replace all outdated tuna ovens at Bumble Bee Foods with new ovens that do not require workers to set food inside.

The company will pay $1.5 million to Melena's family, $750,000 to the District Attorney's Environmental Enforcement Fund and $750,000 in fines, penalties and court costs.

According to a news release, the settlement is the "largest known payout in a California criminal prosecution of workplace safety violations involving a single victim."
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