California's Division of Occupational Safety and Health (CAL/OSHA) has officially cited SeaWorld San Diego, alleging that the aquatic park has failed to undertake proper measures to protect its workers from the killer whales housed there.
According to the Washington Post, OSHA leveled a $25,770 fine against SeaWorld Wednesday, claiming four safety violations, two of which pertained to the handling of killer whales at the park. Three of the citations are categorized as "serious," yet SeaWorld has already noted its intentions to appeal. According to UT San Diego, OSHA specifically cited the safety of employees who rode on killer whales or swam with them while they were in a specialized medical pool, as well as those who stood on "slide outs" while an orca was in the same tank.
— Fox 5 San Diego (@fox5sandiego) May 1, 2015
While OSHA asserts that SeaWorld does not have adequate procedures in place to protect employees in their interactions with orcas, the aquatic theme park disputed that contention in a written statement.
"There is no higher priority for SeaWorld than the safety of guests and team members and the welfare of our animals.The citations issued by Cal/OSHA today were not precipitated by any workplace incident, accident or injury, and they reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the requirements of safely caring for killer whales in a zoological setting."
SeaWorld San Diego Cited For Allegedly Failing To Train Workers To Safely Interact w/Orcas http://t.co/clYKQU0ffQ pic.twitter.com/wuGneNWuVe
— DianeN56 (@DianeN56) May 1, 2015
SeaWorld has recently launched a public relations campaign to convince potential customers that its killer whales are both healthy and happy in their parks. As the Inquisitr has previously reported, SeaWorld has faced intense criticism since the release of Blackfish, a documentary that examined the company's treatment of killer whales. While SeaWorld has denied many of the allegations made in Blackfish, the film nevertheless highlighted the death of Dawn Brancheau, a trainer who was killed by an orca at SeaWorld's Orlando park in 2010.
— Lori Weisberg (@loriweisberg) May 1, 2015
SeaWorld has also noted that has taken several proactive safety precautions, installing fast-rising pool floors and custom-fitted personal emergency air systems. While Cal/OSHA spokeswoman Erika Monterroza said that the investigation into SeaWorld's policies was the result of a complaint, neither she nor SeaWorld spokesman Dave Koontz would say how the complaint was initiated.
The citations are hardly the first leveled against SeaWorld over its orca population. Last year, the company lost a four-year-long legal battle with OSHA over Brancheau's death at SeaWorld Orlando, leading to a citation that barred trainers from close contact with the whales while unprotected.
[Photo by SeaWorld/ Getty Images]