Workplace Safety in North Carolina Enhanced, Thanks to Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

We recently marked the 101st anniversary of the catastrophic and fatal fire that happened at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City. In honor of the anniversary, officials encourage the public to drop by the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory website to hear an audio tour that’s been optimized for smartphones. This audio tour documents some of the ways that this event truly made its mark in labor’s history.
You may remember hearing about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that happened back in March 25th in 1911. Last year a much bigger deal was made because it was the 100th anniversary of an event that essentially launched the modern-day work-safety movement.

This is still to date one of the deadliest industrial disasters in the history of the United States. It was marked as the fourth highest loss of lives from an industrial accident in the entire U.S. history. While this was a tragic event, it was able to change the outlook on workplace safety in South Carolina and elsewhere forever.

Our Spartanburg workers compensation lawyers know there were nearly 150 employees who were killed in this disaster. They were killed from inhalation, smoke and fire. Some people were even falling to their deaths. Most of the people who died in this fiery accident were Italian and Jewish immigrant women between the ages of 16- and 23-years-old.

When this accident happened, managers at the factory had all of the stairwells, doors and exits locked. This was not uncommon at the time as guards used this method to help prevent unauthorized breaks and pilferage. Because of these locked exits, many of the workers weren’t able to get out in time.

After the fiery and fatal accident, legislation was passed that mandated that factory safety standards be improved. The fatal accident also helped to spur the growth of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. This is the Union that also fought for better and safer work conditions for sweatshop workers.

This catastrophic event really led to some great things for work conditions in the United States. In remembrance of this fiery accident and in celebration of how far we’ve come in the world of workplace safety, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched the audio tour, narrated by Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis and various other officials from the Labor Department.

The website and the tour looks at more than 20 locations through the New York City metropolitan area that played a role in that 1911 accident. Those who are interested are able to go to the site and hear about the victims and the aftermath of the accident, too. This event is symbolic because while we may have lost nearly 200 workers, we gained some much-needed basic health and safety precautions in the 20th century workplace.

“The tragic events of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and their impact over the last 100 years are reminders of the importance of the work of the Labor Department,” said Solis.

Our attorneys here at Lee & Smith serve clients in workers’ compensation cases in North and South Carolina. To set up a free and confidential consultation to discuss your workers’ compensation case, please call us at 1-800-887-1965.

More Blog Entries:

Risks for Work Accidents in Anderson and Elsewhere Likely if Combustible Dusts Accumulate, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, March 21, 2012

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