HAVERHILL, N.H. -- Acting on recommendations from several years ago by the N.H. Labor Department to protect town employees, Haverhill is drafting a firearms policy for town staff that could soon go to a selectmen's vote.

The policy, which has been okayed by the town's insurer and is still undergoing revisions before it becomes final, is scheduled to go back before the board during its meeting Monday.

It will be the first firearms policy for Haverhill and will apply to town employees only.

"This is not a prohibition," said Town Manager Glenn English. "This is an attempt to have a policy that protects the rights of employees and protects the safety of the workplace ... Other people coming into our building from the outside have an absolute right to have a firearm. We can't prohibit firearms in the building."

English said the town has never had an incident of workplace violence, but wanted to implement a policy after the last routine inspection of the town building by the state Labor Department, which developed a list of recommendations to cover various components of workplace safety.

"They suggested physical barriers between us and our customers and we started with rudimentary physical barriers," he said. "The next issue was firearms and that came from our safety committee."

There are varied opinions by board members on the firearms policy and alternative language for it has been submitted, he said.

During the board's Nov. 17 meeting, "workplace" was defined as any place an employee works, including a highway, town office or any town building.

An earlier policy draft states that firearms would be kept securely on an employee's person, in a proper holster, in a desk drawer or other lockable space. Selectmen at that meeting changed "lockable space" to "locked space."

On the issue of training, Selectman Tom Friel, on Nov. 17, said police officers are trained in firearms safety and town employees with firearms should also be trained.

Selectman Lynn Wheeler suggested the police department should be aware of which employees have firearms and how much training they have.

As the draft policy currently stands, English said, "I think the main difference now is training. Is the town, as owner of the workplace, going to mandate a certain type of training or ask for evidence of training?"

The town has a right a right to manage its workplace and have a policy that governs the use of firearms, he said.

"We cannot restrict people who come in to do business," said English. "They are not part of our workplace ... We control the workplace so that's what separates our employees from other folks coming in."

He added that town employees "have a right to bear arms, but we have a right to regulate that."

Littleton is also looking at its own workplace violence policy that comes out of a similar routine inspection conducted in that town six weeks ago by state Labor Department.

Littleton's draft workplace violence policy, to be taken up again by selectmen at their Dec. 8 meeting, states, "Workplace violence has become a reality for many employers and we hope to never face this growing problem. The town of Littleton therefore prohibits employees from bringing weapons on our premises, including parking lots ..."

Littleton's draft policy excludes possession of weapons by certified police officers.


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