SeaWorld appeal of OSHA decision fails

OSHA review commissioners decide not to hear appeal

ORLANDO, Fla. - SeaWorld will have to keep its trainers out of the water and pay $12,000 in fines -- punishments issued in the wake of trainer Dawn Brancheau's death in 2010 -- after a review commission with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration declined to hear the entertainment giant's appeal.

SeaWorld could now send the case to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. SeaWorld released a statement to Local 6 on Tuesday saying, "The Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission took no action on SeaWorld's and the Secretary's requests to review the decision reached in May by Administrative Law Judge Ken S. Welsch. While Judge Welsch's decision substantially reduced the classification and fine of the citation, it also contained errors in fact and the law."

The statement continues, "SeaWorld will decide within the next 60 days whether to appeal to the United States Court of Appeals. SeaWorld remains dedicated to the safety of its employees and well being of its animals."

Brancheau was dragged into the water by her ponytail and killed by a whale named Tilikum during a show at SeaWorld Orlando more than two years ago. 

Judge Kenneth Welsch ruled earlier this year that SeaWorld is endangering its trainers by allowing them to swim with killer whales.

Welsch sided with OSHA, which believes the best way to keep trainers safe is to keep them out of the water and behind a barrier while working with orcas.  SeaWorld is developing several new ways to keep trainers safe, including a quick-rising pool floor that would lift the trainers and the whales out of the water in an emergency.

SeaWorld voluntarily pulled trainers out of the water after Brancheau's death to review its policies, and later, to see what happened with the OSHA investigation.

Their once-voluntary move is now being mandated by OSHA.

The judge also reduced SeaWorld's fine from $75,000 to $12,000. Welsch changed the most serious citation SeaWorld faced from "willful" to "serious" in his decision.

Ever since Brancheau's death, trainers have not been allowed to swim in the water during Shamu shows.

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