Safety and OSHA News

Worker killed by lightning strike; OSHA fines company

An employee at an amusement park was killed by lightning. OSHA says the park could have done more to protect and train its employees.

OSHA has fined Adventure Island in Tampa, FL, $7,000 for one serious General Duty Clause violation.

The citation says employees were exposed to the hazard of being struck by lightning while working outdoors because Adventure Island did not follow its own procedures to shut down the rides on the day the employee was killed. The park has a lightning strike monitoring system that indicates activity within five miles.

Justin Inversso, a lifeguard, was injured in a lightning strike on Sept. 10, 2011, when he was working on the Key West Rapids Ride. He later died at a hospital. He turned 21 the day before his death.

Inversso was standing in two to three feet of water as he evacuated patrons from the side, according to authorities. He was taken out of the water by co-workers and given CPR.

OSHA handed Adventure Island a list of ways to abate the lightning hazard when thunderstorms approach. Among the abatement suggestions:

  • obtain training from the providers of the existing strike monitoring system about how to interpret data
  • supplement data from the existing monitoring system with information from the National Weather Service, and
  • reevaluate time required to evacuate guests from rides, especially when employees are the last to evacuate and seek shelter.

OSHA said Adventure Island should also enforce these rules for employees during thunderstorms:

  • stay away from pools and avoid contact with water
  • don’t take refuge under tall, isolated objects, such as a tent or tree
  • avoid metal fences, pipes, rails, utility poles and other electricity conductors, and
  • put down any object that might conduct electricity, such as a rake, hoe or shovel.

Adventure Island is contesting the citation. Its parent company is SeaWorld, which has had its own problems with OSHA recently because of the death of a trainer who was pulled under water by a killer whale.

In a Tampa Tribune article on the Adventure Island fine, Gary Lopez, director of an Orlando-based tour planning company, said theme parks face a tough balancing act during inclement weather. “Do you go over the top, kick everybody out of the park and lose money?” Lopez is quoted as saying. “And if you don’t, there’s the liability issue.”

What do you think the parks should do in these situations? Do you think the OSHA fine is warranted? Let us know in the comments below.

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  1. So now Disneyland will infuriate thousands of visitors when they kick them all out because there is a storm 5 miles away?

    I sure hope theme park operators announce loudly on the speakers that
    “Due to OSHA regulations and potential fines from our own government, the park is being shutdown until further notice. Additionally, due to OSHA’s interpretation of the General duty clause, our staff must take cover immediately. Our employees will return and escort you off of the rides at a time that it is determined safe for them to do so. Please enjoy your time on the ride until our staff can safely return to operate the rides to get passengers off. Also, we will not be refunding your entrance fees. If you have any issues, please contact your federal representatives in Washington, DC. Thank you.”

    • Mike Threlfall says:

      And if they do nothing and a strike kills a number of visitors……….will they just write it off or will they then come up with a policy to be followed? Kind of like should they upset visitors by warning them that there are alligators or just tell them to stay out of the water?

  2. After reading this repeatedly I’m still confused about what the park operators did wrong. They employ a lightning monitoring system, were aware of an approaching storm and were in the process of evacuating patrons at the time of the accident. The employee was in water because he was trying to ensure the safety of park patrons. It simply isn’t possible to control every conceivable risk where weather is concerned.

    • It’s both a lack of proper employee training (don’t be in the water, fresh water is conductive) and a poor evacuation trigger plan which did not only account for the miles lighting was away but also how long it would take to move BOTH riders and employees away from danger points. In the Live Event industry we use an 8 mile radius for lightening as 5 miles does not allow enough time to move all personnel off the stage.

  3. The issue is whether he could have evacuated riders without standing in water. The riders should have been getting off the ride at an exit onto a dock. As a lifeguard, he may have been accustomed to being in water, but the park should have instructed him to get onto land during electrical storms. If this was not the case, then I have to wonder why there was a fine.

  4. GhostRevenant says:

    The government can not save everyone…bottom line…

  5. Will OSHA be fining god as well in this case?

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