Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, the deadliest workplace disaster in the history of New York CIty. The consequences of the fire lead to sweeping reforms and legislation that improved safety standards in factories and other industrial workplaces.
The fire began at approximately 4:40PM, on March 25, 1911 in the Asch Building located in the Greenwich Village in New York City. It claimed the lives of 146 garment workers, most who were females aged 16 to 23 years old. 71 others were injured. Most of those who died were killed in the fire, but many workers also jumped from the 9th story floor in order to escape the flames.
Because of the improper and inadequate safety mechanisms already in place, and as a result of Triangle Waist Company management's fear of employees stealing merchandise, doors and windows were locked preventing any adequate escape routes.
Many of the rudimentary safety mechanisms that are standard today were not in place, including properly built escape ladders and even the direction that a door must swing in order to allow escape.
The consequences of the tragedy led to the creation of legislation that aimed to prevent similar occurrences and to protect the safety of workers. The New York State Legislature created the New York State Factory Investigating Committee to "investigate factory conditions in this and other cities and to report remedial measures of legislation to prevent hazard or loss of life among employees through fire, unsanitary conditions, and occupational diseases."
The fire, although tragic, ultimately spurred a labor reform movement that helped to protect the safety and health of workers by creating safer working conditions, and standardized safety protocol & mechanisms. Although not established for another 60 years, this same labor reform movement paved the way for the creation of the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).
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