SeaWorld Drops OSHA Appeal

Says safety practices have improved since citation

Aug 20, 2014
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Outside Magazine
seaworld san diego killer whale orca osha blackfish

Killer whale Ulises, from SeaWorld San Diego, with a trainer.    lolilujah/Flickr

Following a week of financial bad news and announced plans to improve its orca habitats, SeaWorld has also revealed that it plans to drop its appeal of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) citations it received following trainer Dawn Brancheau's death in 2010

The citations included three safety violations, with one classified as willful—for exposing employees to "drowning hazards when interacting with killer whales," according to OSHA's August 2010 statement that followed six months of investigation. In April 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld this citation, saying that "the hazard arising from trainers' close contact with killer whales in performance is preventable."

SeaWorld now says that it has chosen to drop its appeal of that ruling, saying that safety measures have improved since OSHA's investigation. "We opted not to pursue further appeal of the court's decision, which was based on how we were conducting our killer whale program prior to February 2010," SeaWorld said in a prepared statement.

The way SeaWorld conducts its program now includes a $70 million investment in lifting floors that can quickly isolate whales. SeaWorld trainers are also no longer allowed to swim with whales during performances—though they will still be able to get in the pool behind the scenes to acclimatize whales in case someone ever falls in. These changes are all in accordance with OSHA's recommendations and signal SeaWorld's attempt to move forward from backlash following Brancheau's death. As a leisure-industry analyst told the Orlando Sentinel, SeaWorld probably realized the appeal would be "a very difficult case to win."

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