March 25 Marks 100th Anniversary of Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

On March 25, 1911, a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in the Asch Building in New York City took the lives of 146 women and men unable to escape due to inadequate safety protections. Doors were locked; the fire escape had melted. Many desperate to escape jumped out windows to their deaths while thousands of New Yorkers watched in horror. Public outrage over this tragedy led to new work and safety legislation, rules and regulations nationwide.

On March 24, the New York City chapter of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), the organization that formed 7 months after the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, will host a commemorative dinner at the New York City Fire Museum in memory of the victims.

ASSE also will participate in a conference focusing on the fire at the City University of New York Murphy Institute, as well as the events held at the site of the fire on the New York University (NYU) campus on March 25.

NYU currently hosts an exhibit, “The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire: One Hundred Years After,” that draws on historical photographs, archives, artifacts and film clips to tell the story of the fire and lessons learned. The exhibit will be on display at NYU Open House through May.

Visit Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition’s Web site to learn more about other commemorative events.

Remembering the Victims

Today, workplaces are safer but more needs to be done, ASSE stressed. On March 24, New York ASSE members, along with special guests, ASSE President-Elect Terrie Norris, CSP, ARM, state officials, members of the Remember the Triangle Coalition and more, will remember the victims, review the tragedy and what transpired afterwards and consider what needs to be done to ensure workplace safety now and in the future. Former New York Fire Marshall and ASSE member Chris Connor will discuss the fire then and fire safety now.

Similar workplace tragedies continue to occur, such as in Hamlet, N.C., in 1991, when 25 people died in a chicken production factory fire. The doors were locked and the workers were trapped inside. Today, however, millions of people leave work injury- and illness-free to return home safely due, in part, to the work of occupational safety, health and environmental professionals.

ASSE’s documentary on work safety the past 100 years, “ASSE – Celebrating a Century of Safety,” which features information about the Triangle fire, can be viewed at http://www.asse.org/assecenturyofsafety. ASSE’s free brochure about the fire is available as a PDF at http://www.asse.org/newsroom/100/toolkit/Triangle-Shirtwaist-Factory-Fire-Brochure.pdf.

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