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Elephant Caretaker Dies in New England Zoo

According to a recent article from ABC News, the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is conducting an investigation into how and why a caretaker at a New England animal sanctuary was killed when trampled by an Elephant.

elephants-on-parade-2-1420924-m.jpgThe retired veterinarian was working as a caretaker for two elephants when he decided to walk into their enclosure. His body was later discovered in a barn after being stepped on by one of the elephants in his care.

While it is believed that this was merely an accident, OSHA is investigating why the worker entered the elephant’s habitat. After a worker was killed at large animal sanctuary in Tennessee, that facility required protective barriers to be used at all times when interacting with the animals. Protective barriers (formally called protected-contact barriers) are large metal bars that protect the workers from being crushed while working on the elephants.

OSHA has made it clear that far too many people have been injured or killed in accidents at zoos, and OSHA is conducting an investigation into the circumstances surrounding this tragic workplace accident. The director of the of the elephant sanctuary has been quoted as saying that if workers were required to use the protective barriers and follow a rigid set of safety rules, there would be an effective way for them to interact with the elephants and provide therapy.

Others interviewed said that many of the older caretakers feel that the methods used in the past are safe, and there is no need for any additional safety precautions.

While people typically think of workers’ compensation in terms of an on-the-job injury and not an accident that involved the death of a worker, our workplace injury attorneys in Boston understand that a claim for workers’ compensation death benefits is often the appropriate remedy.

If a worker is killed on the job, the surviving spouse or other family member who is a lawful heir can make a claim for workers’ compensation death benefits. These benefits can be paid in a lump sum or paid over time depending on the terms of the settlement and can include medical bills related to the death of the worker, funeral expenses, and lost wages that the worker would have provided to his family had he been alive and able to work.

While being trampled by an elephant is a rather unique set of circumstances, typical cases involve an industrial accident or a car accident in which the victim was driving or riding during the course of his or her employment.

One of the things to keep in mind is that the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company will often make a low offer, hoping that the family will quickly accept it during a time of emotional distress and financial insecurity. The best thing you can do to help insure that the company’s offer is fair and appropriate is to speak with a workers’ compensation attorney before accepting any settlement offers. You want to make sure that you have someone on your side who will aggressively represent the best interests of you and your family.

If you are injured on the job in Massachusetts, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your workers’ compensation claim: 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

OSHA Investigates Death of Elephant Caretaker, September 19, 2014, ABC News
More Blog Entries:

Man Electrocuted in Construction Site Accident, August 25, 2014, Boston Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog