Jacksonville Zoo Faces Nearly $15,000 in Penalties After Rhinoceros Injures Zookeeper

A Jacksonville zookeeper was injured in February after a rhino struck her in the arm, should and stomach with its horn. Now, the Jacksonville Zoological Society Inc. faces $14,661 in proposed penalties for exposing employees to workplace safety hazards.

The Jacksonville Zoological Society Inc. faces $14,661 in proposed penalties after a rhinoceros injured a zookeeper during a training session in February.

The zookeeper was rewarding Archie the rhino with food in a chute when it struck her in the arm, shoulder and stomach with its horn. The zookeeper was taken to the hospital following the incident.

After the episode, OSHA launched an inspection of the zoo. Now, four months later, OSHA has cited the zoo for failing to protect workers from recognized hazards when employees train and feed the rhinos, and for not notifying OSHA within 24 hours of the employee’s hospitalization, which is required.

“Zoos and animal parks must ensure safety measures [and] include proper design to protect employees when training and caring for animals,” said OSHA Area Office Director Michelle Gonzalez, in Jacksonville, Fla.

According to News 4 Jax, Tony Vecchio, executive director of the Jacksonville zoo, said the zoo disagrees with the way the investigation was conducted, but they take full responsibility for the incident.

“I think there’s some things they may have overlooked or things we disagree with those citations,” Vecchio said. “We’ve looked at it from every angle. We accept responsibility. I’m sure if we have an accident that means we failed in some way and doing our jobs as well as we should.”

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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