I could honestly care less whether the trainers are in the water or not, but it is definitely not the government's job to tell Seaworld their employees, who knowingly and willfully choose this work, may not get in the water. And this is coming from a bleeding heart liberal.
My feelings on this are complicated, 'cause on one hand I'm uncomfortable with wild animals used in show acts, but, on the other hand, these animals -- particularly the ones born in captivity -- are no longer wild and need human interaction to fully stimulate their environment. It's also complicated for me because, for years, being an orca trainer at SeaWorld was my dream job. When most kids my age were papering their walls with pictures of Duran Duran and Wham, my room was wall-to-wall Shamu :-) .
All that being said, I agree with previous posters -- the trainers have signed on to this job knowing full well the risks. There are any number of jobs in this world that are inherently dangerous and can kill you -- i.e., you couldn't pay me enough to work on skyscraper construction, but I'd jump in the water with an orca no questions asked. It's not up to government to regulate this, as long as the parent company is not operating in a woefully negligent manner, which I'm 100% positive SeaWorld wasn't.
I think the trainers should be allowed in the water. And if it's true that the rule only bars them from being in the water during shows, and not during training sessions, then it's stupid anyway.
I didn't vote. I thought there could be a middle ground where safety is not compromised during a show. You should add a third choice or fourth choice.
I Respond: I am not so sure that is accurate. If there is a precedent being set by the decision it would be in the event that a performer is killed, the circumstances surrounding that death should be investigated by the enforcing body (in this case OSHA) who would then suggest a course of action. Interested parties (in this case SeaWorld) would then be afforded the opportunity in front of an objective arbitrating body (a courtroom) to advocate their interests. But that's not a precedent. It's standard operating procedures for OSHA.
Futher (as in the case of ALL OSHA regulations) it is the employer's responsibility to provide the safe working environment. In other words, if there had been some sort of administrative or engineered control that could have prevented the death of the trainer, it is the employer who is responsible for identifying and providing that control and not the employee. Now if the employee was acting in a reckless manner or was not following the company's safety policies and procedures, then the employer should not be penalized.
While I think there should be precautions taken so that there isn't an injury or death in the future, I think it should be OK to let them back in the water.
I also think they are (or should be) aware of the risks of their profession. Any physical job, when it comes down to it, does pose hazards.
This is where the argument of what the government's role in business should be starts. Once again they've intervened, gotten nothing done, and wasted our and Sea World's money...all in the name of politics. To me there was no precedent set here, other than the government thinking that it knew more about Sea World's business than Sea World did.
I agree whole heartedly that the trainers chose their job as their field and went into it knowing full well the risks...but I bet the thought of flying through the air and plunging the depths with an orca outweighed those fears for them.
I hope with all my heart that this will be revised and an 11 year old girl sat in Shamu Stadium for the first time can feel the way I did when I first saw it back then - awed and astounded.
Accidents = It happened from no fault of me.
Unexpected Situations = It happened from the fault of others.
Operator Error = It happened and its my fault, but it wasn't intentional.
I guess OSHA is doing what it does best. It created a new rule based on nothing.
I do not claim to be an expert on all things OSHA (let alone the way they handle shows featuring predatory animals). But I have completed OSHA 30-hour, OSHA 510 and OSHA 500 coursework and I recognize what OSHA is doing is NOT creating new rules, but evaluating a workplace environment and following a process to make recommendations.
And please understand OSHA does NOT benefit from this ruling either way.
Also let's make sure we are all on the same page about something. The occupational hazard being discussed is HIGHLY UNUSUAL, volatile and dynamic. Orcas were not made to be held in tanks where they frolic with humans. That's not a PETA argument it's a logistical argument. Further, throw a VERY DEEP tank full of water into the mix and suddenly every show (regardless of the safety plans) becomes a dangerous situation.
My local economy's cornerstone is tourism. I want fantastic shows that keep parks full. If trainers in the water sell more tickets then I support trainers in the water.
Unless it means someone gets killed.
The outcome of this makes no sense, other than to justify their involvement. If they make no ruling, then they are perceived as ineffective or weak. If they go all the way and ban trainers from the water completely, they are seen as business killers and do major damage to Sea World because trainers have to get close and make contact with the whales (and other animals) in order to train them. It might not have much to do with politics at the inspection level, but at the top it has a lot to do with politics. A high profile case such as this tends to put people and organizations in the spotlight.
There's always been a certain amount of danger for workers in this industry. There's heavy machinery, high voltage, wild animals, heights, speed...etc etc, and some have died over the years caring for these places. Workers know the risks, accept them, and take them, and parks do their best to ensure worker safety. If we stopped doing things because of danger, there would be no theme park industry at all
I Respond: In a different tank, under different circumstances. The trainers are not necessarily maintaining the same contact (For example not being launched off the whales' noses). There has to be a report from OSHA. Without knowing what is contained in that report or the details associated with what OSHA contends is an unacceptable hazard it's hard to assess its credibility.
Mr. Potter writes: Workers know the risks, accept them, and take them, and parks do their best to ensure worker safety.
I Respond: How exactly do you know this? How do you know that "parks do their best to ensure worker safety?" What is Sea World's specific safety plan? What are their administrative controls? What are their engineered controls? Knowledge of these things is required before making any assessment of either Sea World's program or OSHA's conclusions.
In fact if the parks did (using your words) "their best to ensure worker safety," the trainers would NEVER be in the water in any tank. That action would absolutely assure there would be no life ending accidents related to the animals. That would be the parks doing "their best to ensure worker safety."
After a show, if the trainer is engaged in a relationship building exercise with the whale and there's no barrier, will OSHA be there to explain how their new rule didn't protect the trainer?
I Respond: Or ... If Sea World's attorney stood up in court and contended their procedures were creating a safe workplace ... if the trainer is engaged in a relationship building exercise with the whale and there's no barrier, will Sea World be there to explain how their safety program didn't protect the trainer?
Hmmm... We are well past this point. SeaWorld is following OSHA with court enforcement. There is a clear gap in the rule with regard with the relationship building exercises so SeaWorld will be blamed regardless. Or maybe the next time, OSHA will wake up and create another rule to address the gap. However, since these incidences are actually quite rare, I don't expect the gap to be addressed for another 10 to 20 years.
TH your whole argument here is based on a classic assumption made by government and OSHA....that they are the real experts in marine biology, animal training, and the business of running Sea World. It assumes that the knowledge and years of research by their scientists and the expertise of their management mean nothing. It assumes that the trainers and workers are idiots and don't know what they are doing.
It also assumes that management doesn't have the utmost regard for the safety of it's workers, which is an absurd notion. Do you really think that in this litigious society with high insurance costs, red tape, unions, and gasp...perhaps a little human compassion, management doesn't emphasize safety? Sure there are accidents, but how much of it really is company negligence.
As for "utmost safety", there's going to be risk in anything. If the industry (or all other industries as well) practiced your brand of safety and removed all risk from everything, there would be no industry at all. There wouldn't be roller coasters or other rides, because there's a hazard in building them and inspecting them. There wouldn't be zoos, because for all the safety precautions, there's still a risk of attack. There wouldn't be stunt shows or dance shows, because there's always a chance of injury. Hell, we couldn't even drive to the park, because that's dangerous too.
All of this debate about a rule that doesn't even address what really happened, which is that a trainer was pulled into the water backstage while giving the whale a post show rubdown. According to the ruling, it would appear that they can still do that.
I Rspond: All those years of research and expertise did not prevent a trainer from getting killed.
Mr. Potter: "As for "utmost safety", there's going to be risk in anything."
I Respond: Which does not mean that management and governing bodies should not act to minimize this risk as much as possible. If keeping the trainers out of the water results in the safest possible environment, then so be it. If the entertainment value of a theme park show is the only price that's paid ... well, that does not seem to be too much of a sacrifice.