Safety and OSHA News

Chimpanzee sanctuary to pay $12K in OSHA fines: Employees’ fingers bitten off

A nonprofit animal sanctuary in Tumalo, OR, agreed to pay $12,520 in fines to Oregon OSHA, in connection with incidents in which employees suffered serious injuries while working with chimpanzees. But the state isn’t done looking into the sanctuary. 

Oregon OSHA had originally recommended $20,920 in fines for Chimps Inc. for ten violations. After the nonprofit appealed the fines were reduced in a settlement.

During three visits to Chimps Inc., inspectors uncovered 30 incidents resulting in bites, scratches, bruises, skin being completely torn off hands and at least four finger or thumb amputations, according to bendbulletin.com.

The safety violations included unsecured doors, poor emergency planning and employees unsafely working alone. Five of the citations were issued under the General Duty Clause. Federal and state OSHAs use the GDC when there are no specific regulations applicable to a hazard. The federal GDC says employers are required to provide their employees with a place of employment that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious harm.”

In an interview with bendbulletin.com in December, then executive director Marla Meyer expressed a willingness to work with OSHA. (Meyer is now Chimps Inc.’s director of operations.)

One of the major safety fixes Chimps Inc. made was changing from sliding to tilting feeding doors which helps keep employees’ hands away from the chimpanzees.

Now the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries has launched a separate investigation into Chimps Inc. The Bureau filed charges of unlawful practices related to complaints from three former employees.

The three employees filed complaints with the Bureau, claiming they were fired for refusing to sign waivers, including one that waived their right to call 911 in an emergency.

A hearing is tentatively scheduled for November. Chimps Inc. faces a maximum penalty of $81,500 to reimburse the former employees.

Chimps Inc. houses seven chimpanzees rescued from private owners who used them for entertainment at venues in California and Las Vegas.

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