A retired Hartford firefighter was kicked out of his Newington gym for good after letting town officials know about what he believed was a safety hazard for him and other gym members.
“We live in an age of ‘see something say something,’ but don’t do it with Big Sky, because you’re going to get consequences,” Mark Walsh told NBC Connecticut in an exclusive interview.
Walsh, who lives in West Hartford, was surprised when he walked into the Newington gym for a regular workout a couple months ago and saw a renovation scene in the middle of the gym.
“I had to walk around what’s called a scissor lift,” Walsh explained, “I went around the lift to get to the equipment to work out, and I actually had to stop to let another lift drive by me through the equipment.”
Walsh pulled out his phone and took videos of what he saw.
As a retired firefighter of 20 years, and having been in construction for over 15 years, Walsh said knew what he was looking at was a safety hazard.
“I know what it takes to keep a workplace safe, and I also know what happens to you if you don’t, I responded to many, many injuries due to workplace accidents,” said Walsh. “What I was witnessing was a blatant disregard for life safety by the contractors in there and whoever hired them.”
Walsh notified Newington officials and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
After receiving his complaint, Newington Fire Chief Chris Schroeder told NBC Connecticut he inspected the gym with the town building inspector and found they did not have the proper permits for the renovations. A stop work order was issued until the permits were issued.
But, Walsh says the dangerous activity didn’t stop after that.
“Every time I went in there were people working overhead,” he said.
The fire chief said no further violations were identified, and Big Sky has an excellent record. The building inspector says they didn’t issue any citations, either.
On Wednesday, OSHA said they also inspected the gym after Walsh’s complaint and the federal agency will be citing them for violations. They cannot release any details until the gym owners are notified.
Four weeks after his complaint, Walsh said he received a letter in the mail saying his membership was terminated. The next day, Walsh says he went into the gym to ask management what the termination letters were regarding.
Walsh described the interaction, saying, “They said initially that, ‘you know what they’re about,’ and I said, ‘no, I don’t,’ and they said, ‘you called the building inspectors on us and had us shut down and you slowed down workage here,’” Walsh explained.
Now, Walsh is working out at another gym. But he feels he was punished for doing the right thing.
“I reached out to the owner to talk to him further about it, telling him my intent was not to get him in trouble but to keep everybody safe,” the retired firefighter said.
He has no regrets.
“There’s credo I live by,” added Walsh, “Risk being hated for doing and saying the right thing.”
NBC Connecticut reached out to Big Sky and was told that management is aware of the situation and has no comment.