- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Backlash following the 2010 death of Dawn Brancheau has prompted SeaWorld to take new safety measures in order to protect trainers, including custom-made emergency vests, which were debuted for the first time Monday.

Starting with Monday’s 11:30 a.m. performance, killer whale trainers at all of SeaWorld’s theme parks debuted the vests, which become buoyant with the pull of a cord and come with an air tank and respirator, a local CBS affiliate reported.

“It’s an opportunity for us to increase the safety of what we consider an already safe environment and make it even safer,” said Kelly Flaherty Clark, SeaWorld animal training curator. “They provide trainers with buoyancy and on-board air and they are the result of three years of collaborative effort between safety experts, engineers and my own training team.”

Federal courts have upheld an Occupational Safety & Health Administration mandate that trainers stay out of the water when working with killer whales.

Trainers are currently required to stay 18 inches away from the animals while standing on the side of the pool and 3 feet away while kneeling, a local NBC affiliate reported.

SeaWorld said the vest does not indicate that they hope trainers will some day be back in the water.

“Right now, that’s not something we’re even considering. This is just a piece of equipment to maybe make that environment a little bit safer,” Miss Clark told the station.

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