OSHA ruling | Komodo dragon biting employee was not a safety standard violation

Komodo dragon biting employee was not a safety standard violation

A review from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has ruled an incident where a Komodo dragon bit a zoo employee was not an employer violation of safety standards.

The incident, which occurred on March 3 at Akron Zoo, Ohio, resulted in a Komodo dragon biting a worker in an employee service area, causing several injuries.

According to a statement from OSHA and the U.S. Department of Labor to 19 News, the injured employees “instinctively tried to intervene” after two male Komodo Dragons unintentionally entered the same cage and attacked each other.

“Responders quickly administered first aid,” the spokesperson added.

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OSHA has investigated the incident, Akron Zoo’s procedures, training program, and personal protective equipment requirements, but found no issues with the protocol.

Akron Zoo confirmed on March 19 that OSHA “has now determined that there were no employer violations of safety standards.”

In an initial statement following the event, released on March 4, Akron Zoo said its chief concern was for “our valued team member, who is currently recovering at home.”

The Zoo added it was reviewing how the event occurred and would work with OSHA, stating: “Safety is, and will remain, the utmost priority for our staff, visitors and animals.”

Whilst OSHA has no specific standards and regulations for zoo workers, Akron Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), which has a very high bar.

The AZA’s rigorous accreditation standards & related policies include detailed benchmarks for employee training and safety measures, including for incidents that result in injury:

“Institutions maintaining potentially dangerous animals must have appropriate safety procedures in place to prevent attacks and injuries by these animals. Appropriate response procedures must also be in place to deal with an attack resulting in an injury.”

An OSHA spokesman, Scott Allen, said the zoo was very cooperative with its investigation. He also noted that Akron Zoo is planning “extensive” follow-up training for employees.

Akron Zoo is not the only employer to announce extra training following a safety incident this week. In a letter to customers, Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines said improvements to training measures would be a crucial part of its response to a recent swathe of safety incidents.

However, it appears Akron Zoo has no issue with its health and safety protocols and procedures, and its employees are well protected, in line with broader requirements from OSHA and seemingly with Zoo-specific requirements from the AZA, though this is yet to be confirmed.

Akron Zoo’s statement concludes by bringing positive news about a Komodo dragon not involved in the staff member’s injuries, but that was also injured in the incident – the dragon is stable and recovering.

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