Lessons Learned from the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

To mark the 100-year anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) released a booklet containing statements from 34 worker safety and health leaders on what the fire has to teach us today.

The booklet, “Don't Mourn, Organize,” features leaders from government, labor, academia and community-based public health and immigrant organizations. It is available for download as a PDF.

The booklet’s publication marks the centennial of the fire that tore through the Triangle Waist Co. near Washington Square in New York City on March 25, 1911, killing 146 workers – mainly immigrant women. The varied writers in the collection address how far we have come since that time in improving working conditions and what remains to be done.

“Outrage over the conditions that led to this tragedy resulted in a fundamental change in the way in which people viewed government,” said Joel Shufro, executive director of NYCOSH. “For the first time, it became legitimate for government to require employers to provide workers with safe and healthful working conditions, to prohibit child labor and to ensure that employers comply with fire codes and provide sufficient ventilation.”

Bill Henning, chairman of NYCOSH’s board of directors, added that the booklet “provides a perspective on what protections workers have won over the last 100 years – and, as importantly, what remains to be done to ensure that every worker has a safe and healthful workplace.”

Among the essays featured are those by David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA; John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; Denis Hughes, president of the New York State AFL-CIO; and Linda Rae Murray, president of the American Public Health Association.

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