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SeaWorld Gets $75K OSHA Fine for Trainer Death

By Jason Beahm on August 24, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In February, a tragic event occurred live at SeaWorld in Orlando when Dawn Brancheau, 40, was pulled underwater and killed by a six ton killer whale. As spectators watched, Brancheau was dragged and tossed by the whale, suffering terminal injuries to her spine, ribs and head.

SeaWorld Orlando has been fined $75,000 as a result of three violations discovered in the investigation into the trainer death caused by a killer whale. One of the violations was considered "willful" by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Legally, willful does not necessarily mean intentionally, but instead means acting with intentional disregard for someone's health or safety, or showing extreme indifference.

Cindy Coe, regional administrator of OSHA, said that SeaWorld knew of the inherent risks when trainers interact with dangerous animals, but failed to protect them. "Nonetheless, it required its employees to work within the pool walls, on ledges and on shelves where they were subject to dangerous behavior by the animals," Coe said in the statement, CNN reports.

SeaWorld spokesman Fred Jacobs contested the allegations regarding the trainer death contained in the OSHA fine. "OSHA's allegations in this citation are unsupported by any evidence or precedent and reflect a fundamental lack of understanding of the safety requirements associated with marine mammal care penalties," Jacobs said in a statement, CNN reports.

Under The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970, OSHA was created within the Department of Labor. Under OSHA, employees have the right to work in an environment that is reasonably free of safety and health hazards. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) monitors the safety and health of American workers through the creation and enforcement of workplace safety standards.

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