Palm Beach Zoo responds to OSHA tiger attack report

The Palm Beach Zoo has responded to a recent letter from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration concerning a deadly tiger encounter in April.

On the 15th of that month a tiger named Hati attacked and killed keeper Stacey Konwiser in the Tiger River night house.

OSHA sent a letter dated October 14th to the zoo with results of its inspection.

It found: “Employees are exposed to attacks when entering areas that may be occupied by tigers without first ensuring that the area is secured from tiger entry by confirming that all access points to tiger occupied areas are closed and locked.”

OSHA did not issue a citation, but did make these recommendations:

-Enforce the employer’s current safety Standard Operation Procedures (SOP) which includes identifying the location of tigers and ensuring access doors are closed and locked prior to entry.

-Install a system that operates all sliding and guillotine doors from a central location(s).

-Install electronic door position status detectors on all animal access points linked to a display that will provide a prominent visual indicator of when the animal doors are in an “opened” or “closed” position.

-Install video monitoring equipment to track location and movement of tigers. Periodically review video to assess employee compliance with established procedures.

-Prohibit Keepers from using animal access (sliding or guillotine) doors to gain access to adjoining tiger areas.

-Restrict tigers to a defined specific area prior to making entry into a tiger area or during “Round Routines” when shifting animals or entering a den, yard or exhibit.

-Require all animal shifting and “Round Routines” with tigers be conducted with a qualified two-person team.

-Assure that trainees are under the direct supervision of a qualified Keeper at all times while conducting “Round Routines.”

OSHA said it could return to the zoo in about a year to further examine conditions.

After receiving the letter the zoo issued the following statement:

The Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society appreciates the diligence and professionalism of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) during the course of its investigation. We share the same goals as OSHA to ensure that we provide a safe working environment for all of our employees. 

Following the April 15, 2016, accidental death of Lead Keeper Stacey Konwiser, the zoo spent six months working with OSHA investigators to ensure that zoo employees are safe in the workplace. While the federal agency confirmed that the zoo did not violate any OSHA workplace regulations, including the applicable general safety guidelines, OSHA identified areas where it feels the zoo can improve safety regarding Malayan tigers. The zoo does not believe that any of the additional safety recommendations played a role in the accident in question; however, the institution has already implemented many of OSHA's recommended changes.

“We respect OSHA and its thorough investigation and we’ve already implemented many of the agencies suggested changes,” said Andrew Aiken, Zoo President and CEO.

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