Santa Fe Springs, CA – In October 2012, 62-year-old Jose Melena was cooked to death inside an industrial oven at Bumble Bee Foods’ Santa Fe Springs (CA) plant. Felony charges have now been filed by the Los Angeles County District Attorney – Bumble Bee Foods and two of its employees have been charged with willfully violating safety rules.
Prosecutors say that workers unaware Melena was making repairs inside the pressurized steam cooker loaded 12,000 pounds of tuna into it and turned it on. This failure in employee safety training and lockout/tagout procedures resulted in Melena being tragically and avoidably cooked to death. 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.
Bumble Bee Foods could be fined up to $1.5 million, and the plant’s director of operations and former safety manager could get three years in prison each. The two Bumble Bee employees involved face a maximum sentence of three years in state prison and/or a $250,000 fine if convicted. “Prosecutors and investigators from [the LA County DA’s] office have begun rolling out to major industrial incidents involving serious worker injuries and death,” DA Jackie Lacey says in a statement. “Our goal is to enhance the criminal prosecution of workplace safety violations.” Bumble Bee says it is “disappointed by the charges.”
Elk Grove Village, IL – OSHA is investigating how a worker killed outside of Chicago this week when his clothing became caught in machinery. Wayne Follman, age 50, was injured and killed when his clothing became caught in machinery at a Acme Industries warehouse in Elk Grove Village, a suburb northwest of Chicago.
Crews responded to the accident at Acme Industries and discovered a deceased 50-year-old man in a warehouse, according to a statement from the Elk Grove Village police department.
OSHA has launched an investigation and sent a compliance officer to the scene. Acme Industries manufactures machines parts, assemblies and components, according to the company’s website.
Creighton, PA – Kolek Woodshop, Inc. has been cited by OSHA for ignoring electrocution hazards. The fatal electrocution of Andrew “CK” Sakala Jr. on a roofing job in September 2014 was the result of his using a non-approved aluminum ladder which made contact with a 7,200-volt power line. Kolek Woodshop sent a second employee to complete the job 72 hours later, exposing that person to the same conditions that resulted in the electrocution death of Sakala.
OSHA said it identified one willful violation because Kolek exposed the second employee to the same hazards after the fatality. The company also failed to report the fatality to OSHA. The western Pennsylvania-based roofing contractor now faces penalties of $67,900.
Christopher Robinson, director of OSHA’s Pittsburgh area office, said it was “alarming” for the second employee to be sent into the same potential danger: “The blatant disregard for worker safety demonstrated [in the Kolek case] is horrifying and completely despicable…This company’s failure to implement basic safeguards resulted in tragedy.”
Denver, CO – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined Atlas Metal & Iron Corp. in Denver $58,000 after determining that the death of an employee in Sept 2014 could have been prevented. Failing to lockout the energized baling machine and assess the confined space properly are two of the violations that led to the fatality.
Abel Marmolejo, age 52, was killed as a result of a failure in lockout/tagout procedures – a scrap metal baler reactivated while he was working on it. In the inspection that followed the incident, OSHA investigators found 12 safety violations at the Atlas Metal & Iron Corp. facility. Atlas Metal & Iron operates a scrap metal drop off center for residential recycling.
“Enclosed machinery and unprotected moving parts can be fatal,” said Herb Gibson, OSHA’s area director in Denver. “If Atlas Metal & Iron Corp. had followed simple, well-known safety practices for turning off machinery before allowing employees to work inside, this tragic incident could have been prevented.”
Houston, TX – A cutting-table explosion resulted in the death of a 31-year-old employee at Madden Bolt Corp in August 2014. The explosion hurled the employee and a steel plate into the air. The plate then landed on the fallen worker. This is the second person killed in a year at the Houston-based employer – In September 2013, a forklift driver died after the machine turned over and pinned him underneath. As a result, OSHA has cited the Houston-based employer for 10 alleged serious violations. Madden Bolt manufactures bolts, custom steel plate products and assemblies, employing about 130 workers.
“When an employee is killed by a preventable workplace hazard, this is no accident. It means the employer failed to protect workers from dangers that can cause injury, illness or, in this case, another needless death,” said Josh Flesher, acting area director for OSHA’s Houston North Area Office. OSHA has proposed fines totaling $44,800.
An inspection that followed the August explosion found alleged serious violations that include failing to ensure that the air and gas concentration in the cutting table did not accumulate to create an explosion; protect fuel cylinders from damage; place safety guards on band saws and a pipe press that exposed workers to being caught in the machinery; cover live electrical parts on equipment; and outline proper procedures to shut down equipment while performing maintenance.
Morley, Australia – 2 energy workers were killed and 2 seriously injured this week in an explosion at Morley Galleria shopping center located in a suburb of Perth, Australia. Alan Cummins, age 30, was killed at the scene and Matt Hutchins, 22, died in Royal Perth Hospital shortly after the accident.
Employees of High Energy Solutions were performing routine maintenance near an electrical transformer. The exact cause of the explosion is as of yet unknown, but under investigation. Industry experts suspect that an arc flash blast caused the accident. The survivors are in intensive care recovering from burns and smoke inhalation at the Royal Perth Hospital. It has been reported that the injured are in critical condition, with burns to 60-80% of their bodies.
The mall was evacuated and closed temporarily due to power outage and emergency responders working to determine the extent of the accident and damage. Adjacent roads were also temporarily shut down.
In a statement released by High Energy Service Pty Ltd, general manager Brad Mitchell said: “This is a truly tragic day and our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the deceased persons and those of the injured employees… We will be fully co-operating with all the relevant authorities in their investigations and will be conducting our own investigation. Our focus at this moment is supporting those injured people and their families and our other employees.”