OSHA’s citation of SeaWorld suggests that some sort of air supply system could be used to allow waterwork to resume between SeaWorld’s trainers and the park’s killer whales. But a group of former trainers has approached OSHA to make clear that so-called “spare-air” will not keep trainers safe.
Their argument boils down to three points: 1) many of the incidents (partial list here) between trainers and killer whales involve physical trauma, where lack of air is not an issue (and that Dawn Brancheau was killed by traumatic injury; air would not have changed the outcome); 2) giving trainers new equipment, which involves hoses, squeaks and other noises, might just give killer whales something else to grab, and might also unsettle them, leading to more incidents, not fewer; and 3) that even if a trainer involved in an incident did manage to get a regulator in his or her mouth despite the violent motion and high speeds often involved, taking a lungful of air creates a danger of lung overexpansion (which can be deadly) if a whale with a trainer rapidly ascends from the bottom of the pool to the surface.
The trainers sent statements on spare air to OSHA, and have shared them with OrcaAware. You can read them here.
The Orlando Sentinel has taken note of the argument the former trainers are making, in this article.
And former trainer Samantha Berg appeared on Fox News’ Fox & Friends to discuss the issue, and trainer safety at SeaWorld.