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Court denies SeaWorld's appeal of OSHA ruling

Leah Zanolla | Posted: Apr 14, 2014 | Updated: Oct 19, 2014 - 9:25:27 AM
SeaWorld's appeal of safety citations from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been denied in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. After a killer whale killed one of the marine park's trainers in 2010, OSHA ruled that the trainers must stay out of the water when working with the whales. Physical barriers were to be installed between the trainers and the animals. The judges agreed, 2 to 1, saying "The administrative record establishes that SeaWorld did not lack fair notice because the hazard arising from trainers' close contact with killer whales in performance is preventable." Because SeaWorld's trainers have stayed out of the water during this appeal process, the judges felt this showed that the "changes were feasible and would not fundamentally alter the nature of the trainers' employment or SeaWorld's business."

The judge who ruled in favor of SeaWorld said that OSHA doesn't have the authority to regulate a "specialized industry like SeaWorld."

SeaWorld still has the option of appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court. The company said, "Following the tragic death of Dawn Brancheau in 2010, we voluntarily deployed several new safety measures, including removing trainers from the water during shows. In so noting its opinion, the court acknowledged that there will still be human interactions and performances with killer whales and, according to the court, the decision simply requires that we continue with increased safety measures during our shows."

The Labor Department responded by saying, "The D.C. Circuit Court found that SeaWorld knew about the hazards associated with killer whale performances, and that the company did not adequately address those hazards."

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