CNN reports that Bumble Bee foods and two of its employees will face felony criminal charges arising out of the work place death of an employee at a California plant. Bumble Bee was charged with “willfully violating worker safety rules.”
The man died in a pressure cooker used to sterilize cans of tuna. According to reports, the 62-year-old man, entered the 35-foot-long oven. Co-workers failed to realize he was inside, closed the door and turned on the oven. The man was unable to escape, and succumbed to temperatures that rose to over 270 degrees. California OSHA found no willful violations when it originally investigated the fatality, however the Los Angeles District Attorneys Office has now stepped up efforts to prosecute major industrial accidents involving serious worker injuries and death. The company could be fined up to $1.5 million and the employees could face prison time.
Whether Bumble Bee will pay civil damages as well is unknown. Although generally California worker’s compensation laws govern the recovery of damages in workplace wrongful death cases, in certain situations it may be possible for the surviving family members to file a third party-claim and seek recovery for all damages, include future wage loss, pain and suffering and other out of pocket expenses. These amounts may be significantly more than those allowed as death benefits.
Addressing work place dangers – especially those that involve employers failing to follow or adequately explain proper protocols and procedures is critical. In fact, statistics show that language barriers exist in many manufacturing jobs. Ensuring clear communication between employers and workers could significantly reduce the number of serious work place accidents and fatalities.
Hopefully the increased attention paid toward these horrific accidents will lead to greater industrial safety.
For more information or if you or a loved one has sustained personal injuries in a work place accident, please contact the dedicated California work place accident lawyers at Butler Viadro, LLP.