OSHA Cites SeaWorld of Florida for Animal Trainer’s Death
The U.S. Department of Labor has announced that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited SeaWorld of Florida for various safety violations, including one classified as willful, in connection with the death of an animal trainer. A six-ton killer whale grabbed the trainer and pulled her under water. Video footage shows the whale repeatedly striking and thrashing the trainer, pulling the trainer under water as she attempted to escape. An autopsy said the trainer had died of drowning and traumatic injuries.
The killer whale in question was one of three killer whales involved in the death of an animal trainer at Sea Land of the Pacific in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. In addition to SeaWorld’s knowledge of this previous death, its trainers were found to have had an extensive history of unexpected and potentially dangerous incidents involving killer whales at its various facilities. Despite this history, SeaWorld management failed to make changes to improve the safety of the work environment for its employees.
Before you conclude that a SeaWorld OSHA citation has nothing to do with the business you operate, think again. If you become aware of a dangerous environment for your employees and you do nothing about it, you could face what SeaWorld is facing. Some employers have operations that are inherently dangerous. Even for those that don’t, there is still some kind of safety hazard somewhere in the workplace that needs preventive or corrective attention.
Employers have a duty to protect their employees in connection with safety and health issues. And being cited by OSHA isn’t the worst thing that can happen. Dealing with a citation, even a willful one, is relatively easy to handle. Dealing with the death or serious injury of an employee isn’t.