It appears that SeaWorld Orlando has made a good faith effort to comply with new workplace safety goals established following the death of a trainer who was drowned by an orca, or “killer whale” in 2010. This was the finding set out in an order from Judge Ken Welsch, an administrative law judge, last month. SeaWorld met a deadline to have new safety procedures in place that were recommended by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Those measures include allowing trainers to only work with killer whales if there’s a physical barrier between them and creating a minimal distance between trainer and whale. SeaWorld officials had asked for an extension so they could consult outside experts, but the request was denied by federal workplace safety officials.
Dawn Brancheau, the trainer, was killed in February 2010 when the six-ton killer whale, Tilikum, grabbed her and pulled into the water. Separately, in another order written by Judge Welsch, it was said that SeaWorld couldn’t keep its new safety protocols a secret. SeaWorld officials had asked that the protocols on working with killer whales be kept sealed, claiming they were proprietary business records. But Judge Welsch ruled against them, writing that members of the public who see SeaWorld’s killer whale shows will be able to figure them out. The judge said the protocols would remain sealed until a review of his ruling by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Review Commission.
Last year, Judge Welsch ruled that physical barriers between trainers and killer whales are a viable way to prevent hazards to workers at SeaWorld. He issued the order in response to Sea World Orlando’s appeal of two citations issued by OSHA for the death of Brancheau. Judge Welsch also reduced OSHA’s fine against SeaWorld Orlando to $12,000 from $75,000 and changed a “willful” citation to “serious.” SeaWorld has appealed last year’s ruling to a federal appellate court in Washington, D.C. SeaWorld and federal work-safety officials are engaged in court-ordered mediation as part of SeaWorld’s appeal. Based on the order, it appears that SeaWorld isn’t limited to the minimal distance and physical barrier recommendations by OSHA if officials can come up with other methods to protect trainers interacting with whales.
Source: The Claims Journal
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