The Palm Beach Zoo responds to OSHA concerning a fatal tiger encounter in April


On April 15, 2016 keeper Stacey Konwiser, was attacked and killed by a tiger at the Palm Beach Zoo.

The zoo received a letter from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, dated October 14th with results of its inspection and found the following:

“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 the zoo a citation but did make several recommendations:

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

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

3. 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.

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

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

6. 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.

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

8. 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.

In response, 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.

An inspection report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed that Konwiser “did not follow established safety procedures.” Konwiser’s manner of death is listed as accidental.

See also: WildCat Chat ~ Loved to Death ~ April 19, 2016 and
WildCat News Brief ~ with host Alex Warner ~ 04.24.16

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