MySafetySign Blog

OSHA v. SeaWorld: the saga continues

The 2010 death of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau by one of the park’s killer whales has sparked an ongoing OSHA battle .

Last week, the Associated Press reported on the latest development in a long battle between SeaWorld Orlando and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), stemming from the 2010 death of a trainer drowned by one of the park’s killer whales.

In the recent ruling, an administrative law judge determined that SeaWorld had made a “good faith effort” to comply with new workplace safety goals, including implementing safety procedures that require trainers to have a physical barrier and a minimal distance between them and the orcas. In a separate order, however, the judge ruled that SeaWorld cannot keep the new safety protocols a secret, as company officials had requested.

This development, however, represents just a small sliver of the judicial ping-pong match. Here’s a look back:

Timeline of OSHA’s investigations into SeaWorld

Trainers had been prohibited from swimming with the whale due to its behavior, but not from interacting with it while lying in shallow water on the pool edge, as Brancheau was doing when the killer whale dragged her into the water by her ponytail.

In addition, the investigation found “SeaWorld trainers had an extensive history of unexpected and potentially dangerous incidents involving killer whales,” yet “management failed to make meaningful changes to improve the safety of the work environment for its employees.” The agency charged SeaWorld with a $75,000 penalty.

New safety protocols require trainers to have a physical barrier between themselves and the orcas (photo via Wikimedia Commons).

On the same day, according to Department of Labor documents, OSHA and SeaWorld entered into a “voluntary mediation program” in order to work out new safety guidelines.