First employer cited for ignoring Safe Start order
Fitness gym in Yakima County fined nearly $10K for operating in violation of governor’s order
YAKIMA COUNTY — A fitness center near Yakima is facing nearly $10,000 in fines for operating in violation of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start order.
The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) cited company owner Bradshaw Development, Inc. this week after L&I inspectors found Anytime Fitness Selah open for business on June 15 when it should’ve been closed under the governor’s order.
L&I 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. When L&I inspectors went to the facility they saw several employees working, as well as customers entering and using the facility.
Before L&I conducted the inspection, state workers contacted the business multiple times; they informed the business about the order and directed it to close.
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.
Exposing workers to COVID-19
Operating and serving customers during Phase 1 exposes Anytime Fitness Selah workers to unacceptable risk of coronavirus exposure, according to the citation from L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH). Along with being cited for the violation, the business faces a $9,639 fine.
“Our primary focus is making sure employers do everything possible to prevent their workers from being exposed to the coronavirus,” said L&I 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 L&I.
“And it’s just not fair to businesses that are following the rules when others don’t.”
L&I 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.
The state has received 13 complaints since May about Anytime Fitness Selah. People submitting complaints said the gym allows customers to work out without requiring social distancing, is selling new memberships, and is posting on social media that it’s 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.
The business has until July 5 to close or 15 working days to appeal.
Several chances to comply
By the time L&I 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 L&I receives more complaints, the department sends a warning letter 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.
Through June 26, L&I staff working at the state EOC have 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.