The Anytime Fitness gym in Selah became the first business to be fined by the state for operating in violation of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start order.
The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries issued a $9,639 fine to company owner Bradshaw Development Inc. this week after receiving numerous complaints from the public and a referral from the Yakima Health District.
L&I inspectors saw the gym open for business on June 15.
Yakima County, with continued daily case counts in the double or triple digits and stretched hospital capacity, remains in Phase 1 of the state’s Safe Start plan. Gyms are not allowed to reopen until Phase 3.
A Wednesday news release from Labor and Industries said state workers contacted the business multiple times about its noncompliance before issuing the fine.
The citation from the department’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or DOSH, noted that Anytime Fitness Selah put workers at an unacceptable risk of exposure to the coronavirus.
L&I Director Joel Sacks said Anytime Fitness Selah was “clearly aware” it was not complying with the governor’s order and was putting employees at risk.
“They chose to stay open even after multiple contacts,” Sacks said in a news release. “It’s just not fair to businesses that are following the rules when others don’t.”
In a post on the gym’s Facebook page March 16, Owner Wes Bradshaw told members the gym would be closing for two weeks to comply with Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order.
Bradshaw set up a Go Fund Me page on Wednesday for a “health and fitness legal fund” that had raised more than $3,000 as of Wednesday evening.
“In our continued efforts to promote health and wellness to our community we have chosen to support our community’s choice to pursue a healthy lifestyle,” Bradshaw wrote in a statement on the fundraising page. “As a health business we find it necessary that our members have the ability to access our facility and continue to improve their physical and mental health.
“... Since there has been no attention paid to health centers such as Anytime Fitness in Selah in regards to safe opening, we have created our own.”
Bradshaw said Wednesday the Department of Labor and Industries fine "for not providing a safe working environment... couldn't be further from the truth." Bradshaw said the company's focus for the past 14 years has been promoting healthy lifestyles in the community.
"We are a health business," he said. "We provide as much or more sanitation and safety precautions for our employees and members as any business that I have visited."
Bradshaw said the company increased sanitation efforts since COVID-19 hit, including spraying disinfectant more than six times daily, constant sanitation by staff and members, and implementing social distancing precautions. He added that achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is among the "best preventative measures one can take against COVID-19."
"Ultimately health and fitness centers are the first line of defense against COVID-19, something that was either not known or considered almost four months ago when so many businesses were blanketed as being ‘non-essential’," Bradshaw said. "We are here for the community and will continue to do everything in our power to provide a safe, healthy and happy place for people to work on their physical and mental health."
Since May, Labor and Industries received more than a dozen complaints that people were using the Anytime Fitness gym in Selah without social distancing.
A Yakima Health District official also emailed the governor’s office to report community concerns and an observation from a staff member that the gym was “packed with customers,” according to the news release.
The business has until July 5 to close or 15 working days to appeal.
The L&I news release noted that businesses are contacted by phone and email, if possible, to ensure owners understand Safe Start rules by the time Labor and Industries receives a Safe Start referral.
If employers refuse to comply, the department sends a warning letter about possible fines. Inspectors may later drive by the business; if the business is open, the inspectors refer the case to a DOSH investigator for inspection and possible citation.
Through June 26, state emergency operation center staff contacted more than 400 businesses about complaints filed by concerned citizens that operations are violating COVID-19 safety precautions.
About 1,300 more businesses will be contacted about possible Safe Start violations soon, the department said.
People who believe a business is violating Safe Start rules can report the possible violations online.
Editorial Note: This article has been updated to include comment from Wes Bradshaw.