BROOKLINE — The Town of Brookline wishes to update members of the community on the internal investigation into the snowplow accident that occurred during last month’s blizzard.
On Sunday, Jan. 30, at approximately 8:15 a.m., a Department of Public Works plow vehicle struck a skid steer loader near the Public Library of Brookline at a low rate of speed, causing it to overturn. The driver of the plow and of the skid steer both were transported to an area hospital and released that day.
Following the incident, the town notified the Massachusetts Department of Labor of Standards, which instructed the town to conduct an internal investigation into the matter.
The investigation was conducted by Environmental, Health and Safety Officer Patrick O’Neill.Through the investigation, he determined that exhaustion was a contributing factor in the incident.
Extreme blizzard conditions during the storm lead to long working hours for employees. Though crews were given a four-hour rest period from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., the investigation indicated that sleeping arrangement accommodations that optimize rest should be explored.
Additionally, due to the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the DPW — similar to other communities — has experienced staff shortages for individuals that specialize in snow removal. The shortage led to more work for fewer employees.
To help reduce the risk of similar occurrences in the future, the Town of Brookline is implementing a number of mitigating steps, including:
- Developing a winter training program, which will include training on fatigue signs and symptoms, how to report fatigue, employee and managers responsibilities for dealing with fatigue, plow safety, recognizing ice hazards and more.
- Analyzing the current four-hour rest period and how to make that time more effective to optimize rest.
- Developing an inspection schedule for the Environmental Health and Safety Officer to check in on workers during emergency snow removal operations.
“The Town of Brookline accepts the findings in this investigation. The recommendations will support our efforts to provide a safe environment for employees, especially during emergency response and recovery efforts,” Commissioner of Public Works Erin Gallentine said. “Snow removal operations can be particularly challenging and DPW employees work hard to help keep our community safe during extreme weather. We are committed to providing our workers with the proper support so that incidents like this may be prevented in the future. Our employees deserve a lot of credit and gratitude for the work that they do to prioritize public safety and support quality of life for our residents.”