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SeaWorld Fights Back, Appealing OSHA Citations

SeaWorld Fights Back, Appealing OSHA Citations
Hendershot Cowart, P.C.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) citations do not have to be final. A business has a right to appeal OSHA violations if they feel they are in error, exaggerated or not warranted. OSHA has different levels of violations, and the amount of fines they extend to businesses is based on the level of severity. It pays to have an attorney present when the OSHA inspects a business. They can sometimes ensure that violations are not unjustly issued.

When a 40-year-old female trainer at SeaWorld in Orlando was killed in 2010 after being pulled under the water by a 12,000 pound orca, the OSHA came in to investigate six months after the accident. They cited SeaWorld with three safety violations, with fines in the amount of $75,000. The accusations were for allegedly exposing their trainers "to a hazardous environment." As a result of the citations, the OSHA demanded that the killer whales and the trainers be separated, even while performing their shows.

This is unacceptable for SeaWorld, as their main attraction at their three locations - Orlando, San Antonio and San Diego - are the orca shows, where the huge mammals perform with their trainers. SeaWorld has filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The appeal will be heard on Nov. 12.

The OSHA citations have already been reduced by an administrative law judge from "willful" to "serious," which reduced the $75,000 fines down to $12,000. However, the citations were still upheld. SeaWorld appealed the administrative law judge's decision to uphold the violations with a 60-page appellate brief, where SeaWorld referred to the case as "fundamentally misguided."

Texas has had their share of OSHA violations issued to different business enterprises. The ruling in this orca case may affect Texas' San Antonio SeaWorld location, as well as SeaWorld in San Diego.

Source:, "SeaWorld Appeal Of OSHA Citations Could Impact Famous Orca Shows" Carlyn Kolker, Oct. 29, 2013