Today's News / Compliance / Occupational Safety

Court turns down SeaWorld’s appeal of OSHA citations

Agency wants more protections for trainers working with killer whales

SeaWorld loses court battle with OSHAThe U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Friday denied SeaWorld's appeal of safety citations issued by OSHA after a killer whale killed a trainer four years ago.

The court turned down Seaworld’s appeal in a 2-1 decision. "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.”

"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,” according to the Department of Labor.

The citations steam from the death of Dawn Brancheau, a highly experienced trainer who was dragged into the water and killed by a 12,000-pound killer whale named Tilikum. The incident occurred in front of a horrified audience at SeaWorld's park in Orlando.

Physical barriers required

Following an OSHA investigation into the fatality, the agency moved to require physical barriers in the water between trainers and killer whales, in order to reduce the risk of injury or death.

SeaWorld says it put new safety measures in place following Brancheau’s death, including removing trainers from the water during shows.  “In so noting in 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 company said in a statement.

Cruel treatment in captivity

The court decision follows controversy over a documentary about the fatality entited, “Blackfish.” The film features footage and interviews and shows what its producers say is the cruel treatment killer whales receive in captivity and the pressures brought to bear on trainers by the multi-billion dollar seapark industry.

SeaWorld claims that one of the OSHA inspectors who handled the Brancheau investigation was involved with the making of “Blackfish” and is demanding an ethics probe into the matter.

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to ISHN.

You must login or register in order to post a comment.



Image Galleries

Scenes from the World of Safety

Sights, signs & symbols from the National Safety Congress & Expo held in San Diego, CA, September 15-18

3/31/15 11:00 am EST

Changes to NFPA 70E® – What You Need to Know

NFPA ® for Electrical Safety in the Workplace is revised every three years, providing the most up-to-date requirements for safe work practices to reduce exposure to electrical hazards. This program analyzes several significant changes in 70E ® and is designed to clarify the reasoning behind the changes, and assist in determining how the changes impact employees and employers.

ISHN Magazine


2015 February

Check out the February issue of ISHN, which features articles about hand protection.

Table Of Contents Subscribe


M:\General Shared\__AEC Store Katie Z\AEC Store\Images\ISHN\safetyfourth.jpg
Safety Engineering, 4th Edition

A practical, solutions-driven reference, Safety Engineering, 4th edition, has been completely revised and updated to reflect many of today’s issues in safety.

More Products

For Distributors Only - January 2015



For Distributors Only is ISHN's niche brand standard-sized magazine supplement aimed at an audience of 2,000 U.S. distributors that sell safety products. Circulation only goes to distributors. 



Facebook logo Twitter YouTubeLinkedIn Google + icon

ishn infographics

2012 US workplace deathsCheck out ISHN's new Infographic page! Learn more about worker safety through these interactive images. CLICK HERE to view the page.