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OSHA investigated fatally injured worker claim

A California employer that is responsible for the training or care of wild animals may run the risk of experiencing an injured worker claim. In the event a worker suffers a tragic accident, an employer may seek help to prevent unnecessary expenditures in the event of an injured worker claim. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently began an investigation to determine what may have happened when an elephant caretaker was crushed to death.

The tragic accident took pace when one of the elephants purportedly stepped on their caretaker and inflicted fatal crush injuries. The retired veterinarian was working within the animal's enclosure in a zoo setting and was discovered deceased within the animal's habitat barn. Records indicate that an increasing number of professionals believe that specific barriers or safety measures should be in place before workers are allowed to approach enclosed animals.

This change has been implemented by the national zoo accreditation agency and will require enclosure barriers to be in place beginning the summer of 2017. The barriers would protect personnel from being in a dangerous situation that could result in a crush or blunt force injury, while still allowing care to be administered. Officials believe too many serious accidents have taken place between handlers and veterinarians that work with animals in a zoo setting.

Some California employers may feel that human contact is needed for proper relationship and therapy with the elephants, and many caretakers may agree. When a serious accident does take place, an employee or their surviving family may need to file an injured worker claim. Businesses often find it necessary to seek professional help to protect company assets and the integrity of their mission.

Source:, "OSHA Investigates Elephant Caretaker Death", David Sharp, Sept. 24, 2014

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