Disney has recently been cleared of any wrongdoing in the death of a 30-year-old stunt performer over the summer. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration ("OSHA") concluded its investigation into the death of Anislav Varbanov, who died after he was injured practicing a tumbling roll and landing on his head during a dress rehearsal of the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. OSHA found no safety violations by Disney in his death. Varbanov’s August 17th death sparked a 6-month investigation by OSHA, which also investigated two other employee deaths over the summer – 47-year-old Mark Priest, another stunt performer who died following a performance in a Pirates of the Caribbean show, and 21-year-old Austin Wuennenberg, a monorail operator who was killed in a monorail crash.
OSHA issued four safety violations surrounding Wuennenberg’s death, and issued a single "recommendation" to Disney following Priest’s death. The recommendation urged Disney to permit employees to rehearse before performing live in a new venue. What is troubling is that the recommendation is only voluntary – OSHA does not enforce recommendations, nor is Disney under any duty to follow the recommendation. I have previously blogged about how Disney successfully negotiated with OSHA to reduce its fines for the safety violations surrounding Wuennenberg’s death. I was also interviewed by Fox News over the summer about the deaths of the Disney employees.
These deaths were a tragedy, and Disney employees will continue to be injured unless serious changes are made to OSHA, and the government steps up to protect the workers of big theme parks.