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Amsterdam, NY ,
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Safety officer is not needed at the county

Thursday, June 27, 2013 - Updated: 4:08 AM

The fact that Montgomery County was recently cited for several workplace violations, mostly due to concerns about violence on the job, is serious enough that it warrants immediate attention.

The county, however, should not jump the gun and create another position to handle such matters. Staff is already available to deal with the situation, and the new form of government taking office in January will also help.

The state Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau recently made an unannounced visit to the county annex on Park Street in Fonda and found several, unspecified hazards and violations. The county's Sanitary Sewer District in Nelliston was also cited.

The violations are the first posted since supervisors eliminated the safety officer's position in the 2011 budget, which had been in place since 2007.

The safety of public employees should be of the highest priority, but it's not necessary to create a whole new position to deal with those issues.

The county already has a director of personnel whose job it is to deal with employee issues. If he doesn't have the training or background in those areas, he should get up to speed.

The current board of supervisors also has a personnel committee responsible for handling matters involving county employees. The problem is that the panel can meet every day, but a supervisor's main job is to legislate, and not run the day-to-day operations of county government. It's one of the reasons why voters approved a change in their government's structure.

One of those changes includes the creation of an elected county executive, whose job entails making sure county government runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible. That includes making sure Montgomery County is in compliance with state and federal workplace safety regulations.

The county, like most other municipalities, is in no position to spend more money on programs and services and should find ways to deal with employee safety with the people and policies already in place. One of the selling points of the new government structure was that it will operate cheaper and more efficiently than the current setup, and it would send a bad message to the public if county officials started adding new positions right out of the gate.

     

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