NEWS

OSHA finds deficiencies at Office for the Aging site

Brian Quinn

The Allegany County Office for the Aging learned Wednesday afternoon it has deficiencies to correct at its Court Street office, following a visit by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

“There had been a complaint against the Office of the Aging,” said Office for the Aging Director Kimberley Toot. “A county employee made a formal complaint to the New York State Department of Labor about the substandard condition of the building. It’s a confidential complaint. They came unannounced.

“The complaint was specifically about the overloading of the (first) floor and the supports, which may or may not be adequate,” Toot added. “They looked at the floor, they looked at the basement and in the course of investigation, they also said that it was electrical outlets and inadequate safety exit on the second floor. The door was too short. Somebody that was taller than 5’5” couldn’t walk through the door in an upright position.”

Toot said the complaint on the electrical outlets, located in a kitchen that is part of a first-floor office, was that they were not rounded. OSHA interviewed OFA employees.

“The county will receive formal notice of deficiency,” Toot said. “We will have so much time to respond to that notice to fix what’s listed as deficient.”

Toot said she let County Administrator John Margeson and 13 of 15 legislators know about the issue and is still in search of a new home for her department.

Space is tight, with one downstairs office located in a kitchen. The office has had to move some of its filing cabinets into that office, occupied by Community Services Worker Anita Mattison. The second floor includes the Nutrition, Caregivers and Volunteers Office. Meetings are held there and the office includes a kitchen as well.

The county has had to install supports over the years due to the weight of the cabinets above it.

Toot said she could not name any potential new locations for her office. She said she understands that the county’s first priority right now is addressing the court project.

Aside from the normal services it provides, the Office for the Aging has been offering services as part of a program called NY Connects: Choices for Long Term Care — in which residents can get information and services at one place.

“We have working with the Department of Social Services to try to streamline access to long-term care service,” Toot said. “We provided cross training with county staff with the Office of Aging, Department of Health and Social Services.”

Though the Office for the Aging began providing NY Connects service Oct. 1, Toot said the service has become more important recently with the County Board of Health’s decision to put its Certified Home Healthcare Agency (CHHA) up for sale.

“This is especially crucial now that the county has decided to sell its home health care agency,” she said. “People are going to be looking for homecare services and they’re going to be looking for good information on where they can go for services. Our workers will help them access those services.

“They call the Office for the Aging and we have a toll-free line,” added Toot. “There’s no charge to call from anywhere in the county.”

The toll-free line is (866) 268-9390 or people may call (585) 268-9390.

“This was an initiative that was developed two years ago by the State Department of Health, Department of Aging,” Toot said. “We’ve been getting policies and procedures together, making sure we have our staff cross-trained. Now we feel like we’re ready to go out to the public and let them know that the phone number is this and NY Connects is the way they can access services.”

Toot said the department hopes to hold a NY Connects office ribbon cutting at about 11 a.m. Feb. 29 at the Belmont American Legion. It is being held there because there is not enough room to bring people into the Office for the Aging.