Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Wild Animals? Lock the Cage -- Even if there's no OSHA standard

OSHA doesn't have standards that cover everything. When workers are threatened or hurt by hazardous conditions for which no standard exists, OSHA can still cite the employer under the "General Duty Clause," paragraph 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act if the hazard is serious and there are recognized measure to prevent it.

Apparently OSHA has forgotten about the General Duty Clause.
A federal investigation of Wildlife Prairie State Park, where an employee was severely mauled by a bear Sept. 11, concluded the park did not violate federal workplace safety and health regulations.


"We did not find information that showed they were in violation of an OSHA standard," said Tom Bielema, acting area director. "There's nothing in the book that would say for a zoo, 'This is what you're required to do.' In the OSHA books, there isn't a standard that addresses the hazards of wild animals vs. humans."
OK, true but...The bear's keeper, Curtis Bach, 27, of Peoria, was severely mauled by a black bear after a gate to the bear's den was left unlocked. He was bitten on his right shoulder and left leg, and the flesh and muscle were missing from his right leg below the hip and above the knee.
I don't know much about zookeeping, but it sounds lie leaving the gate to the bear's den unlocked might be a "recognized hazard" for which there are some obvious solutions.

By the way, OSHA recommended that the zoo:
improve safety for employees, including den doors that close and lock by themselves. The agency also recommended the park get pepper spray for animal keepers, audible alarms and a keeper entry control system to prevent dangerous animals from being in the same area with park employees.