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The Practical Employer

OSHA, What Say You About Michael Phelps vs. Shark?

Yes, that is a man, paddling a pontoon bicycle, a few feet in front of a pursuing great white shark, wearing absolutely zero protection.

This week is Shark Week on the Discovery Channel.

And the marquee event of this year’s Shark Week was Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps “racing” a great white shark. I say “racing” because Phelps did not race an actual shark. Instead, he swam against a CGI shark based on a previously recorded shark.

To create the CGI, the show had to record a shark swimming in a straight line for a pre-determined distance. And, since great white sharks are not known for their trainability, the job to lure the straight-line swim fell to this guy.

Yes, that is a man, paddling a pontoon bicycle, a few feet in front of a pursuing great white shark, wearing absolutely zero protection. #worstjobever
OSHA has thousands of standards that cover many of the specific safety issues that could arise in the workplace. While these standards dig into the minutia of the American workplace, I can guarantee that OSHA lacks one for “shark-race bait.”
OSHA, however, does not solely regulate of the safety of the American worker via its specific standards. It also has a General Duty Clause, which provides, “Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.” For example, OSHA used this general duty clause to cite Sea World of Florida following a trainer’s death from a killer-whale attack. If the general duty clause can reach Sea World, it can certainly reach Shark Week.
Jon Hyman is a partner at Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis in Cleveland. To comment, email editors@workforce.com. Follow Hyman’s blog at Workforce.com/PracticalEmployer.