OSHA has cited SeaWorld of Florida for three safety violations following the death of an animal trainer who was pulled under the water by a six-ton killer whale in Orlando.
The total fine is $75,000.
On Feb. 24, the whale, Tilikum, dragged trainer Dawn Brancheau under the water by grabbing her ponytail in front of about 50 spectators.
The autopsy report said Brancheau’s death was due to drowning and traumatic injuries.
OSHA says its investigation showed SeaWorld trainers had an extensive history of unexpected and potentially dangerous incidents involving killer whales at its various locations, including the one in Orlando.
The agency proposes that trainers not have physical contact with Tilikum unless they’re protected by a physical barrier.
- one willful citation for exposing employees to struck-by and drowning hazards when interacting with killer whales ($70,000)
- one serious citation for exposing employees to a fall hazard by failing to install a stairway railing system on a stage ($5,000), and
- one other-than-serious violation for failing to equip outdoor electrical receptacles in the stadium with weatherproof enclosures (no monetary penalty).
SeaWorld is contesting the citations and fines. In a statement, SeaWorld said it “disagrees with the unfounded allegations made by OSHA. OSHA’s allegations in this citation are unsupported by any evidence or precedent and reflect a fundamental lack of understanding of the safety requirements associated with marine mammal care.”
SeaWorld says it has conducted its own investigation into the fatality and has made changes to its safety program for the trainers who work with the whales.
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