Fitness gym in Yakima County receives first Safe Start citation, fined nearly $10K for operating in violation of governor’s order.
The Department of Labor and Industries (DLI) has issued the first Safe Start citation against an employer for ignoring the Governor’s Safe Start order. DLI’s press release states that Bradshaw Development, Inc. , owner of Anytime Fitness Selah, was cited after DLI inspectors found the gym open for business on June 15th, when it should’ve been closed under the governor’s order.
The governor’s Safe Start proclamation prohibits most businesses from operating unless their county is in the appropriate phase of the statewide plan to reopen their economy and other aspects of daily living. Anytime Fitness Selah is in Yakima County, one of the state’s most active areas for coronavirus (COVID-19) infections. The county remains in Phase 1, the most restrictive tier of the four-phase state plan.
DLI inspected the Selah facility after receiving multiple complaints from the public and a referral from the Yakima Health District that Anytime Fitness was operating in violation of the governor’s proclamation. Before DLI conducted the inspection, state workers contacted the business multiple times; they informed the business about the order and directed it to close.
The state had received 13 complaints since May about Anytime Fitness Selah. People submitting complaints said the gym allowed customers to work out without requiring social distancing, was selling new memberships, and was posting on social media that it was open.
In an email to the governor’s office, a Yakima Health District official said numerous community members were reporting that the fitness center was open and that a staff member drove by and saw the building was packed with customers.
DLI notified Anytime Fitness Selah about the requirement to close to the public in a phone call, email, letter, and inspection. The citation is a “willful general” violation, meaning the employer knew about the safety requirements, but refused to follow them.
When inspectors went to the facility on June 15th, they saw several employees working, as well as customers entering and using the facility.
Exposing workers to COVID-19
Operating and serving customers during Phase 1 exposes Anytime Fitness Selah workers to an unacceptable risk of coronavirus exposure, according to the citation from DLI’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH).
Along with being cited for the violation, the business faces a $9,639 fine. The business had until July 5 to close or 15 working days to appeal.
“Our primary focus is making sure employers do everything possible to prevent their workers from being exposed to the coronavirus,” said DLI Director Joel Sacks. “In this case, Anytime Fitness Selah was clearly aware it was operating in defiance of the governor’s order and putting employees at risk. They chose to stay open even after multiple contacts with DLI. And, it’s just not fair to businesses that are following the rules when others don’t.”
Businesses given several chances to comply
By the time DLI receives a Safe Start referral from the state Emergency Operations Center (EOC) team, the business has already been contacted by phone and, when possible, by email to ensure they understand the Safe Start rules. In most cases, businesses comply.
If employers say they won’t follow the rules or DLI receives more complaints, the department sends a letter warning that they could be fined if they remain open. Inspectors may later drive by the businesses to make sure they’re complying. If they’re open, the case is referred to a DOSH investigator, who inspects the work site in person and may issue a citation.
Other Safe Start violations under review
Through June 26th, DLI staff working at the state EOC had contacted more than 400 businesses about complaints filed about their operations. The staff have given businesses guidance and answered questions when possible. The team still has approximately 1,300 businesses to contact about possible Safe Start violations.
People who believe a business is violating Safe Start rules can report it online.