The Triangle Shirtwaist Company of 1911 Essay
The Triangle Shirtwaist Company of 1911
The fire that occurred at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company is one event that shaped and changed many things in American Labor Laws and Unions (Stolley). The inhumane condition of the working setting leads to the tragic accident which then serves as an eye opener for the authorities to reform laws and regulations that will provide safety for workers. Until this day it is a horrible scenario that leaves its marks to the mind of American people (Stein).
Although the fire claimed the lives of 146 workers, most of which are young teenage girls, the incident in return provided the public and authorities information about the poor working condition experienced by factory personnel; in the triangle shirtwaist company case, workers worked long hours at minimal wages while being housed at cramped quarters (Pepe). It gave insights of the different problems that poses threats and risks the safety of the workers. As a result, reforms in regulations and laws are enacted and ratified that served the best interest of the workers (Jones). In addition, worker’s union became more vocal in airing their grievances. A call for change in the medium of operations became widespread phenomenon.
The call for change was made in response to avoid such incident from happening again. The tragic event could have been prevented and casualties could have been minimized if only appropriate sets of proper rules and regulations were implemented and observed by management at the site (Drehle). Failure in applying and observing these necessary precautions resulted to a more tragic incident. Witnesses and survivors from the fire accounted several factors that made the situation more difficult for workers to escape from the horrifying event.
On top of the list they mentioned that contributes to the gravity of the situation was the design of the only door which was made available as escape route for workers at the time the fire happened. In an effort to prevent thief and burglar from entering and leaving factory premises, only a single door was made available for personnel use. Every other door was ordered by management to be locked for security purposes. Through this door workers are carefully inspected and checked for possible theft activity.
The design of that door was for it to open by pushing or pulling it inward (Pepe). Thus, in order to open it an ample amount of space is needed inside the building. If the door opens by flipping and pushing it outward, authorities believed that death toll should have been less. The influx of the workers rushing out of the establishment prevented the door to be opened since there was not enough space for the door panel to take up. As a result a large number of workers are trapped inside the burning structure.
The company’s lack of preparedness to such event unfolding was also a major reason for the numerous numbers of deaths which compost mostly of female immigrant workers. Reports that were recorded showed that in controlling the fire to prevent it from spreading only twenty-seven buckets were provided and even though fire hoses were provided at each floor, the water valve in which they are connected did not produce fire when turned on (Stolley).With the few buckets being utilized and fire hoses ineffective, fire spread at rapid rate. Workers begin to panic and then the situation has become chaotic.
Soon, workers started to fill up the elevators which in turn would prove to be fatal, as some were killed in an instant, due to reasons of struggling and entangling, while others were killed as they were trapped inside it, in the end being eaten by the fire. Others proceeded to the fire escape, some had reached the ground but soon it collapsed. As an option of last resort workers also started climbing out of windows, frightened to be caught up by fire they jumped out of the building in a desperate effort to save their lives.
One by one, they jumped, and not long before one after another bodies started to line up the streets and death rate was increasing at an alarming rate. Those who were there that bear witness to the bodies falling one after another and eventually reaching its end, could only watch in horror. It was evident that the company failed to embed to its workers the importance of emergency drills that could have made evacuation of personnel more orderly. If a calm and proper evacuation process was introduced to the workers, then maybe the outcome of the incident could be different. It is because of these drills that they should have been equipped with the proper knowledge and familiar with the things they should have done and things which they did not.
The fire department that aids the burning factory was also at fault. Necessary equipments that could have provided the much needed assistance and save the lives of the workers were either defective or missing. The ladder provided by firemen which were first to arrive to the fire scene could only reach the seventh floor (Stein). However, workers were trapped in the ninth floor.
In the ground fire blankets and safety nets were provide that would assure the safety of people falling from high places. However, at the weight of the jumping workers blankets and nets started to rip off. Firemen and authorities who were assigned to catch leaping victims, found the job very difficult due to the large number of persons needing assistance. With the sound of falling bodies touching the ground, death toll increases. The sound was so earthshaking that those who witness the disturbing scenario coined a term for it, the “death thud”.
Although all fingers are pointing and evidences showed that it was Triangle Waist Shirt management’s negligence that resulted to tragic accident, they were not found guilty. The acquitted the management from the case that was filed against them.
The Triangle Waist Shirt fire of 1911 was a dark patch in American History. However, the events that transpired the day after the fire happened were more important. Because of the tragedy, government officials became aware of the awful condition factory workers are exposed to. Laws that would support their cause and try to improve the working conditions were passed.
Different government agencies are in the forefront of pushing reforms for factory operations, procedures and guidelines that have and will greatly provide benefits to the working class. Insurances such as health are also given to every personnel. The public today has become vigilant of the condition of the workers and the kind of work given to them. The fire also initiated the creation of new building, fire and safety codes in New York then other cities followed. Stiff penalties and punishments await those who failed to comply
Work’s Cited Page
Drehle, David von. Triangle: The Fire That Changed America Atlantic Monthly Press, 2004.
Jones, Gerard. Men of Tomorrow. New York: Basic Books, 2005.
Pepe, Pauline Cuoio. “Triangle Shirtwaist Company Fire.”Eyewitness to America. New York: Pantheon, 1997.
Stein, Leon. The Triangle Fire. New York: A Carroll & Graf, 2001.
Stolley, Richard. Events That Shaped the Century. Virginia: Time-Life, 1998.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 20 March 2017
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