Triangle Shirtwaist

Today is the 112th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire that killed 146 people, including 123 women, who burned to death or jumped from the upper floors of the Triangle Shirtwaist building when a fire broke out. Terrified workers found locked emergency exits.

I wrote last year (and 19 years ago) about the lessons learned from the Triangle disaster: mainly that in order to make progress in this country, especially with workplace safety and health,  we can’t let a good disaster go to waste. While that sounds crass, disasters, unfortunately, are often the only events that have the potential to bring about real change.

And even after disasters, it often takes years — or decades —  difficult and losing battles — to make progress.

But, of course, we often have to ask what kind of progress has really been made.  One depressing example is Dollar General Corp. and Dolgencorp where OSHA has issued more than $15 million in fines and cited the company in more than 180 inspections nationwide for numerous willful, repeat and serious workplace safety violations related to unsafe conditions.

Most of the citations involved blocked exits.

6 thoughts on “Triangle Shirtwaist: 112th Anniversary”
  1. Someone please help me understand why OSHA is inspecting 180 Dollar General stores and warehouses over the past 6 years. How many Dollar General employees have died inside these facilities during that interim due to violations of OSHA standards? In the meantime, we have likely have some exceptionally dangerous facilities that haven’t seen a CSHO in over 5 years.

  2. According to the internet, around 75% of Dollar General’s stores are in towns of 20,000 or fewer people. If not for my local DG, I would have to drive over one hour round trip to get toilet paper on the weekend. The store provides low cost items and saves a lot of gas money for residents of my rural county in which many people live below the poverty line. DG also provides some modest-paying jobs for locals who can’t/don’t want to make the long commute to the nearest city. Many of the locals treat the folks who work there like family, and vice versa. I know them well and have learned how the store operates.
    When the truck makes its weekly delivery, the store is packed with carts. It is inconvenient for both customer and worker. But it is the price one pays for an astounding array of goods at low prices. There are three options…make more truck deliveries to reduce the congestion on delivery days, cut back on the selection, or expand the store size. All of these options would ultimately lead to additional consumer expense. DG is the Walmart of rural areas. Sadly, there is no way a local could run a store like this and survive. Our locally owned pharmacy couldn’t. Nobody from Corporate tells our local manager to lock the doors or block the exits and it would be idiotic to think that their Corporate office is advising their stores to do so. There are times I have found our rear store exit blocked and pointed it out to the store manager. It was out of laziness or convenience that she allowed it and I would bet the same applies at some of these sites where violations were found…bad decisions by people with GED’s getting paid $15/hour, not a Corporate conspiracy. I am a former fire marshal and as passionate about life safety as anyone. I can think of a lot of places I would want to look for NFPA 101 violations before I went to a DG store.

  3. My wife, Meryl Becker, wrote a short play for her English learners, about workers in a 1912 factory where locked doors and fire hazards are the issue.

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