The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida for a repeat violation following the death of a trainer who was drowned by a killer whale. OSHA labeled SeaWorld a repeat offender for continuing to operate a workplace that can cause death or serious harm to employees.OSHA has recommended some preventative measures for SeaWorld, such as “prohibiting animal trainers from working with killer whales…unless the trainers are protected through the use of physical barriers or the trainers are required to maintain a minimum safe distance.”
In court, OSHA stated that SeaWorld’s attempts to protect killer whale trainers are still inadequate. SeaWorld responded that it is in compliance with OSHA’s requirement that trainers remain behind barriers or stay a safe distance away during the Shamu shows.
An administrative law judge previously upheld the OSHA safety violations against SeaWorld and ordered the park to pay $12,000 in fines. The judge also held that, OSHA could mandate SeaWorld to “install physical barriers between its trainers and killer whales” or “require its trainers to maintain a minimum distance from the killer whales.”
The new standards require trainers to be three feet away from killer whales if they are kneeling in a flat surface, and eighteen inches from the edge of the pool if they are standing near the whales. Trainers may still tough the killer whales, but the trainer must be standing on the side of the whale between the blowhole and tail.
Trainers must stay away from the whale’s mouth and tail and have an escape plan implemented if the whale were to move. SeaWorld released the following statement regarding this matter: “SeaWorld has received a citation from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) concerning the manner in which trainers currently interact with killer whales in Orlando. The citation is related to the prior citation that is currently on appeal before the United States District for the D.C. District. The safety of guests and employees and the welfare of animals are SeaWorld’s highest priorities. Since 2010 the company has voluntarily implemented significant changes to the training protocols for its killer whale program that have proven to be safe and effective. OSHA’s enforcement activities and the new citation demonstrate the agency’s continued and fundamental misunderstanding of how to properly and safely care for and work around these animals.”
Pulgini & Norton, LLP attorneys have handled workers’ compensation claims for over 25 years in and around Boston and its surrounding areas. If you or a family member has been injured at work and would like to seek legal assistance, please contact us at (781) 843-2200 or (888) 344-2046 or email us.
OSHA fines SeaWorld $38,500 for safety violation, clickorlando.com, June 10, 2013
BREAKING: U.S. Government Hits SeaWorld With Safety Violation–Again, TakePart, June 10, 2103