Thursday, April 30, 2015


On the job accidents
Damage bottom line


The headline on The State newspaper of Columbia SC reads:

Tuna company, 2 managers charged in death of worker in oven

The following text explains that

    Bumble Bee Foods and two managers were charged by Los Angeles prosecutors Monday with violating safety regulations in the death of a worker who was cooked in an industrial oven with tons of tuna.

    Jose Melena was performing maintenance in a 35-foot-long oven at the company's Santa Fe Springs plant before dawn Oct. 11, 2012, when a co-worker, who mistakenly believed Melena was in the bathroom, filled the pressure cooker with 12,000 pounds of canned tuna and it was turned on.. Not exactly what a person wants to read as they eat their lunchtime tuna fish sandwich or salad.

According to the report,

    The company, its plant Operations Director Angel Rodriguez and former safety manager Saul Florez were each charged with three counts of violating Occupational Safety & Health Administration rules that caused a death.

    The charges specify that the company and the two men willfully violated rules that require implementing a safety plan, rules for workers entering confined spaces, and a procedure to keep machinery or equipment turned off if someone's working on it.

    Rodriguez, 63, of Riverside, and Florez, 42, of Whittier, could face up to three years in prison and fines up to $250,000 if convicted of all charges, prosecutors said. Bumble Bee Foods faces a maximum fine of $1.5 million. California's occupational safety agency previously cited the San Diego-based company for failing to properly assess the danger to employees working in large ovens and fined it $74,000. (Emphasis mine.)

BOTTOM LINE Just looking at the fines against the company, which Bumble Bee is appealing, gives a quick total of a few thousand dollars more than $1.5 million.

The "bottom line" for the company is that it could have implemented an enterprise risk management plan AND established safety policies and procedures AND trained personnel AND exercised the plan for a great deal less than the penalties being assessed against it by California.

    I have to ask: is a human life worth only $74,000 in California?

The monetary penalties may be the least of Bumble Bee's problems. According to a Reuter's article , Bumble Bee has annual earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization of around $130 million and is expected to attract interest from other food companies in the United States and Asia with company owner, Lion Capital LLP, hoping to sell the company for around $1.5 billion. Neither Bumble Bee nor Lion Capital will suffer much from a "paltry" $1.5 million fine. Lion Capital bought Bumble Bee from Centre Partners Management LLC, in 2010 for $980 million

The bigger "hit" may come from consumers who find the thought of cooked cleaner repulsive and fish for their tuna in other waters such as StarKist and Tuna of the Sea, two other major U.S. tuna packers.

Apparently workplace "accidents" are fairly commonplace. In many, perhaps most, cases, the "accident" could have been avoided if

  1. An experienced risk management practitioners had been consulted and presented a risk management program to the organization
  2. Corporate management actively supported and implemented the risk management practitioner's recommendations
  3. Recommended health and safety measures were implemented
  4. Personnel had on-going training
  5. Reminder signage - Check Before Activating - was adequate and obvious

Risk management practitioners often are asked "What's the ROI (Return On Investment) for risk management?" It always is hard to quantify, but for Bumble Bee, the ROI - had if invested in and promoted risk management throughout the enterprise could easily have saved the company more than $1 million AND helped protect its reputation.

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