OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov.

July 11, 2012

Ms. Tessa M. Decker
7277 Hidden Valley Drive
Lambertville, Michigan 48144

Dear Ms. Decker:

Thank you for your correspondence dated September 24, 2011, to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In your letter, you ask OSHA to consider allowing trainers who work with captive orcas at SeaWorld of Florida, LLC to interact with the orcas in the "Believe" show as long as extra precautions are taken to protect the trainers.

Please note that OSHA does not have a particular standard or regulatory requirement that addresses the exposure of employees to the hazard of potentially unsafe captive animals. Further, the Agency does not have the authority to restrict the marine mammal entertainment industry (e.g., SeaWorld) from allowing their trainers to interact with the orcas in shows.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act places on every employer, over which it has jurisdiction, the obligation to ensure worker safety and health, and to comply with OSHA standards and regulations. Accordingly, on August 23, 2010, following the February 2010 death of an animal trainer, OSHA cited SeaWorld of Florida, LLC for a willful violation of Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (29 U.S.C. 654; the "general duty clause"). These citations addressed exposing employees to struck-by and drowning hazards while interacting with killer whales. The general duty clause requires employers to implement feasible measures to prevent or minimize recognized, serious hazards. The general duty clause, therefore, applies to workplaces where there are recognized hazards that could result in death or serious physical harm, and requires that employers address these hazards. In addition, OSHA cited SeaWorld of Florida under existing OSHA standards for exposing employees to a fall hazard and an electrical hazard.

Thank you for bringing your concerns to OSHA's attention. If we can be of further assistance, please contact the Office of General Industry and Agriculture Enforcement at (202) 693-1850.


Thomas Galassi, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs