Occupational safety rules are established and enforced by both federal and state agencies. As one might expect, with the many employers across the nation and the limited resources of the governmental agencies, enforcement is difficult. For this reason, self-monitoring and compliance with standards is the most important way to ensure workers are kept safe at work.
In Bumble Bee’s case, a worker entered a 35-foot long oven to make necessary repairs. Co-workers subsequently closed the door and turned the oven on. The worker’s burned remains were found later by a co-worker.
Apparently, the employees involved did not follow lock out tag out (LOTO) procedures which could have prevented the death. LOTO is used where hazardous conditions exist with mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, thermal, and other systems or devices. The procedure is meant to disable the device or system while it is being worked on by maintenance personnel.
This case was settled not through a lawsuit filed by the victim’s family. Rather, it was a result of criminal prosecution by the Los Angeles County district attorney. Bumble Bee, its safety manager, and its director of plant operations were each was charged with willfully violating safety rules, resulting in the death of a worker.
Bumble Bee agreed to pay $3 million for installation of new automated ovens, $1.5 million to the family of the deceased employee, $750,000 to a charity to be chosen by the district attorney’s office, and $750,000 in fines, penalties, and costs.
In addition to the monetary penalties, the safety manager pleaded guilty to willfully violating the LOTO procedures and thereby causing the death of the employee. He received three years of probation, 30 days of community service, and fines of nearly $19,000. The plant operations director also pleaded guilty and must perform 320 hours of community service and pay more than $11,000 in fines.
This tragic case demonstrates the catastrophic consequences of the failure of employees to follow safety rules and the failure of their employers to enforce those rules. Contact Labor Law Office, APC today to speak with a professional labor law attorney in Sacramento.
Sacramento, CA 95821