By Nancy Kelly
The Town of Berwick has become the first municipality in Kings County to adopt a policy on the staff use of mobile communications devices.
Jeannette Lye, intern for the five municipal units in Kings County, was contacted by the town in November to research the issue after a staff incident highlighted the need for such a policy.
“They felt the need was urgent and wanted to have something in place by the end of the year,” explained Lye, who appeared before Berwick’s committee of the whole Nov. 22 to present her findings.
The new policy goes beyond provincial legislation prohibiting drivers from making phone calls and texting while driving by prohibiting town employees from using mobile technology devices while operating heavy equipment and power tools and while conducting traffic-related duties.
Berwick chief administrative officer Don Regan confirmed the policy came about “after some staff issues and reports by concerned citizens.
“It came down to a health and safety issue for the public and our employees as well,” he said.
The new policy still allows employees “to take care of occasional personal business matters, provided it does not interfere with town business” and does not apply to any staff member who uses a mobile device to report an immediate emergency situation. Two-way radios owned and used by the town and Berwick Electric are exempt from the new policy.
Lye noted another concern of the town focused on what information was being transmitted by staff during work hours. Her report cautioned “the need for discretion when using mobile communications devices, taking into consideration that call history, emails, text messages and other electronic records may be released, if requested, under the part of the Municipal Government Act governing freedom of information and protection of privacy legislation.”
The policy also extends to councillors who use mobile devices while conducting town business.
Lye reported the towns of Kentville, Wolfville and Hantsport do not currently have a similar policy and the Municipality of Kings County supplies staff, who work outside the offices, with Bluetooth devices to facilitate safe communication while driving or operating vehicles.