NORWAY — Selectmen have approved restricting the use of personal, non-emergency electronic communication devises — largely cell phones — by town employees in an attempt to ensure workplace safety.
“We're trying to bring accidents in town to zero,” said Deb Partridge, a member of the committee that studied the issue for about a year. Partridge told selectmen at their Thursday meeting that with the recent enactment of the state's driver distraction law and the attention the use of those devises are getting from insurance companies, it was time to write a policy that would restrict their use.
A committee was formed a year ago on the recommendation of the town's insurance company, Town Manager David Holt said.
According to the policy, personal, non-emergency use of employee electronic communication devises, such as cell phones, are restricted to regularly scheduled work breaks. Employees are banned from using electronic communication devises not issued by the town when operating any town equipment unless permitted by the department head for emergency use. The policy does allow each department head discretion in how a personal cell phone may be used. For example, if a police officer is heading to a domestic violence event and does not want the address to be aired over the scanner immediately, he may be allowed to use that phone to convey the information, officials said.
Every town employee will be asked to sign the policy so there is no question that they are aware of it.
Disciplinary action will also be at the discretion of the department head and range from verbal counseling to termination depending on the severity of abuse.
“This isn't someone makes a personal call and they're fired. It's not like that,” Holt said.
However, if someone were to make a personal phone call while driving a town vehicle and run a red light and kill someone, that would be different, officials said.
“It's a safety issue,” Holt said of the use of cell phones. He also said people making non-emergency cell phone calls all the time at work are wasting time at their job and it does not present a good image to the public.