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ASSP Remembers Factory Fire That Spurred Workplace Safety

Mar 22, 2019

PARK RIDGE, Illinois — It was 108 years ago this Monday when occupational safety and health became front-page news because of the deadly Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City. A few months later came the creation of today’s oldest professional safety society – the United Association of Casualty Inspectors now known as the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) – an organization that continues to be dedicated to progressively advancing the safety and health of workers everywhere.

ASSP encourages all companies and their workers to join the Society in recognizing this important anniversary by observing a moment of silence at 4:45 pm ET Monday – the exact time the first alarm was sounded – to pay tribute to the workers who died in the fire while also refocusing on safe work environments. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 5,000 people are fatally injured on the job each year.

The factory fire in lower Manhattan killed 146 garment workers on March 25, 1911. Fire exit doors were locked and other doors only opened inward, making it impossible for the onrush of workers to get out. The fire escape was poorly constructed and didn’t meet weight requirements. Fire department ladders couldn’t reach the upper floors of the 10-story building. Many workers died by jumping out of windows and into an elevator shaft as they fought to escape the flames.

“The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire was the deadliest industrial disaster in New York City history, and it inspired our country to address workplace safety in an organized way that didn’t exist before this tragedy,” said ASSP President Rixio Medina, CSP, CPP. “The fire led to a series of laws and regulations that improved workplace safety. It also caused a concerned group of insurance company safety engineers to start what is now ASSP.”

From those beginnings in October 1911, ASSP has grown into a global membership organization of more than 38,000 occupational safety and health professionals whose work through the decades has contributed to dramatic drops in workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities. However, the work of safety organizations, employers and federal agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board is never complete.

“Whether you work at a construction site, in a restaurant, or with students in a classroom, the lessons of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire never should be forgotten,” Medina said. “Keeping our workplaces safe takes an unwavering commitment from everyone. There are always advances to be made and great ideas to be shared.”

About ASSP – Working together for a safer, stronger future
For more than 100 years, the American Society of Safety Professionals has been at the forefront of helping occupational safety and health professionals protect people and property. The nonprofit society is based in the Chicago suburb of Park Ridge. Its global membership of over 38,000 professionals covers every industry, developing safety and health management plans that prevent injuries, illnesses and deaths. ASSP advances its members and the safety profession through education, advocacy, standards and a professional community. Its flagship publication, Professional Safety, is a longtime leader in the field. Visit www.assp.org and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Media contact: Blaine Krage, 847.768.3416, bkrage@assp.org

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