Attorneys for SeaWorld Orlando will be in a federal appeals court Tuesday to ask a panel of judges to overturn safety citations and a ban about how humans interact with killer whales during performances.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued the citations and the ban after the 2010 death of veteran trainer Dawn Brancheau. Brancheau, 40, was in a whale holding area when she slipped or fell into the tank and was killed by one of the whales, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. The incident happened after a SeaWorld show called “Dine with Shamu” and involved a whale named Tillikum.
OSHA said SeaWorld violated the general duty clause of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, saying it exposed its workers to a known hazard in the workplace. SeaWorld was fined $75,000 for three safety violations, including one “willful” citation.
After SeaWorld appealed the decision, an administrative law judge last year downgraded the “willful” complaint to “serious,” reducing the fine to $12,000. The judge sided with OSHA’s findings that humans should not be in the water with killer whales unless there were physical barriers would reduce the risk of serious injury or death.
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