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OSHA Citations Upheld By Circuit Court in SeaWorld Killer Whale Case

By a 2-1 vote, the US Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, upheld citations against SeaWorld for violations of the General Duty clause.  In 2010, following an investigation into the death of a trainer who was pulled into a pool by a killer whale, OSHA cited SeaWorld for two violations of the General Duty clause.  The General Duty clause found in 29 U.S.C.  654, 5(a)1 of the OSH Act requires employers to furnish employment and a workplace free of recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to its employees. OSHA found that SeaWorld was aware of the recognized hazards posed to its employees involving close contact with killer whales during performances.  Yet, SeaWorld did not adequately address those hazards with sufficient safety programs.  OSHA recommended that SeaWorld never again be permitted to allow its trainers to perform in close, unprotected contact with killer whales.  On Friday, the US Court of Appeals upheld OSHA’s position.  SeaWorld has not yet indicated whether it intends to appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

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