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.