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Veterinarian killed by elephant was not protected with barriers

Tennessee residents may remember an accident in their own state that killed a caretaker at one of the largest elephant sanctuaries in the nation. A man recently killed in Maine under similar circumstances has led some to encourage the installation of protective barriers to protect workers from the large animals.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has sent an investigator to the elephant enclosure at the sanctuary in Hope, Maine, where the fatal incident occurred. It was reported that one of the large animals stepped on the victim, a retired veterinarian and the founder of the sanctuary. Authorities have deemed the death an accident.

There has been a growing concern due to similar accidents, leading to the required installation of barriers between caretakers and the large animals. Some experts believe that close contact with such large animals is not safe. National zoo authorities will require this safety step to be in place by 2017 for facilities that wish to be accredited. Tennessee’s Elephant Sanctuary has already placed the safety barriers in their facility since the worker died there in 2006. Barriers allow contact between the elephants and their handlers, but metal bars keep them separated. Without barriers, handlers may be at greater risk for accidental injury or even death. The current director of Hope Elephants, however, believes that the therapy they provide for the animals would not be possible without close barrier-free contact.

Workplace accidents like the ones described above can leave an employee’s survivors with extensive medical bills and loss of income. When such incidents occur, the victim’s dependents might pursue consultation with an attorney who might help a client file for workers’ compensation benefits.

Source: ABC News, “OSHA Investigates Death of Elephant Caretaker”, David Sharp, September 19, 2014

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