OK, let’s talk about “known hazards” as they’re called in the safety business. If you try to hand-feed an alligator, isn’t it possible you might get your hand bitten off? One Florida Everglades tour boat captain found it to be a legitimate workplace hazard.
“Oh, Jesus Christ, it’s my board captain!” That’s what an employee of Capt. Doug’s Everglades Tours said to the 911 operator when she saw Capt. Wallace “Wally” Weatherholt had his hand bitten off by an alligator on a recent tour.
Someone had radioed the employee about an on-board injury, but the employee making the 911 call didn’t know who was injured until she saw Weatherholt come ashore. (The Naples News has the 911 recording available here.)
Five passengers on the boat saw the incident. One of them told a local TV station Weatherholt was hanging a fish over the side of the boat and the alligator jumped up and grabbed it then went back into the water.
The passenger said Weatherholt lost his hand when he was patting the water, trying to get the alligator to come up again.
Cell phone video footage taken by a news producer at the station a few weeks earlier showed an airboat captain feeding a large gator who jumped a few feet out of the water toward the food. The video is posted here on Huffington Post.
Wildlife officials tracked down the alligator, euthanized it and retrieved the hand from its stomach. It was taken to the hospital where Weatherholt was, but doctor’s couldn’t reattach it.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating whether the captain was feeding the gators. That’s a second-degree misdemeanor in Florida.
A manager at Captain Doug’s says captains have been reprimanded previously for feeding gators. (Hm, just reprimanded?)
The manager says the operation does have workers’ comp insurance but doesn’t know if Weatherholt would qualify.
Which poses an interesting question. The first place we saw this story was on WorkersCompInsider.com, which notes Captain Wally “was clearly injured in the course and scope of employment.”
The WCI post notes that this may turn on whether the tour boat company “turned a blind eye to this practice.”
And that’s another reason why it’s important for managers to frequently remind their workers not to take certain risks.