Cooked Like a Tuna

Cooked Like a Tuna

i_236Three years ago, a worker at a tuna plant was slow cooked to death in a giant pressure cooker with six tons of tuna. (Please read the brief selection from the Guardian below my commentary.) The federal government has a surprising number of rules about the necessity of not killing your employees. In this case the rules being dealt with are the “lockout tagout” rules and cover employment situations where such precautions are necessary like the 12,000 lb. capacity ovens at Bumblebee.

Some writers on the web have pointed out the similarities of this incident to one of the stories from Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. This is from the end of the book’s Chapter 9 –

... Worst of any, however, were the fertilizer men, and
those who served in the cooking rooms. These people could not be shown
to the visitor,--for the odor of a fertilizer man would scare any
ordinary visitor at a hundred yards, and as for the other men, who
worked in tank rooms full of steam, and in some of which there were open
vats near the level of the floor, their peculiar trouble was that they
fell into the vats; and when they were fished out, there was never
enough of them left to be worth exhibiting,--sometimes they would be
overlooked for days, till all but the bones of them had gone out to the
world as Durham's Pure Leaf Lard!

Of course, the feds took little interest in such things at the time, The Jungle, was published.

There are many today who sincerely believe that businesses will self-regulate if the feds would only step away and allow the invisible hand of the free market to rule. This is one of the beliefs held by Milton Friedman in what must be considered one of his more comedic moments. The idea that humans will become kind and good and willing to suffer monetary loss for worker safety if only the government would step away is more appropriate for small children than adults with experience of a capitalist society.

James Pilant

Bumble Bee Foods settles for $6m in death of worker cooked with tuna | US news | The Guardian

Jose Melena, 62, died three years ago in a 270F oven at the seafood company’s Santa Fe Springs plant after a co-worker mistakenly believed he was in the bathroom and filled a pressure cooker with six tons of canned tuna.

“This is the worst circumstances of death I have ever, ever witnessed,” said deputy district attorney Hoon Chun, who noted he had tried more than 40 murder cases over two decades. “I think any person would prefer to be – if they had to die some way – would prefer to be shot or stabbed than to be slowly cooked in an oven.”

Bumble Bee, its plant operations director Angel Rodriguez and former safety manager Saul Florez had each been charged with three counts of violating Occupational Safety & Health Administration rules that caused a death.

via Bumble Bee Foods settles for $6m in death of worker cooked with tuna | US news | The Guardian.