California regulators on health and worker safety issues sent four citations Wednesday to SeaWorld San Diego for failing to comply with a program that would prevent workers from being injured or becoming ill.
The program was also designed to detect workplace hazards that may cause serious illness, injuries or even death among SeaWorld employees.
The Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) wrote in two of the four citations that the company had taken no measure to protect its workers and trainers that take care of or instruct killer whales in the medical pool or have close contact on the slide outs of other pools with the dangerous animals.
The four citations also mentioned about a fine of more than $25,500 for repeated infringements of worker safety regulations. Nevertheless, SeaWorld plans to appeal.
The park recently announced that its main priority was the safety of visitors, staff members, as well as the welfare of animals. It also said that the recent citations and fine lacked any grounds since no accident, incident or injury were reported in the San Diego facility lately. According to SeaWorld, regulators failed to properly understand the worker safety requirements when instructing or taking care of an orca.
SeaWorld also mentioned a series of safety precautions that were recently put in place such as safer rising pool floors and emergency air systems for its personnel.
Cal/OSHA explained that the four citations were the result of a six-month investigation started after the agency received a complaint from an employee or outsider. Cal/OSHA declined to provide more details on the complaint or its author.
Cal/OSHA’s investigation debuted in November and ended with this Wednesday’s citations. The agency found that SeaWorld San Diego had no real safety plan because its orca trainers have to sign a confidentiality agreement which bar them from reporting their employer the workplace hazards “for fear of reprisal.”
An effective safety plan needs to look at workplace hazards and take the necessary steps to tackle possible injuries or accidents. These steps may include protective equipment and worker safety training for the employees, the agency explained.
Besides the four citations, Sea World struggles with other problems that had affected its public image and hurt its earnings. A 2013 documentary called “Blackfish” sharply criticized the park’s methods on caring and training killer whales. Since then, its earnings collapsed and a new CEO was appointed. The new chief executive tried to solve the park’s problems and restore its image through an aggressive marketing campaign.
Moreover, in 2010 SeaWorld was cited by federal officials over the death of an Orlando orca trainer who drowned while he was training Tilikum, a 2,000-pound killer whale. The park chose to appeal and a 4-year long battle emerged.
Last year, SeaWorld ended the battle by choosing not to appeal a ruling which upheld a Labor Department’s request to bar trainers from having physical contact with orcas during public performances unless there is a safety barrier between them.
In the wake of the 2010 drowning, the park barred trainers from entering in water and interact with orcas during Shamu shows. Nevertheless, trainers still work with the animals in the medical pools.
Image Source: Enid News