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How much risk does an employee assume when signing up to get paid for playing with killer whales?

The February 24, 2010 death of orca trainer Dawn Brancheau prompted yet another investigation into the subject of employee risk, by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), as well as an internal probe within SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment.

The Orlando Sentinel’s article
chronicling incidents and accidents involving captive killer whales and their trainers says that SeaWorld estimates close to 2 million interactions between trainers and killer whales since 1964 – a “relative scarcity of injuries,” demonstrating a strong safety record. But there are enough killer-whale accidents with trainers recorded that SeaWorld shows an entire video of them as part of its trainer orientation program.

dreamstime_14471747.jpgFormer SeaWorld trainer Mark Simmons blames himself for the 2-inch-thick medical file he accumulated during his career, saying they were all the result of his mistakes, not the aggressive behavior of an orca. The injuries “were an inevitable consequence of a job that involves intense physical activity and close contact with animals that can be as big as a school bus.”

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