The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Essay
The Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire took place on March 25th 1911 and made a significant mark in the history of industrial accidents. The factory was located in Manhattan, in a building known as the Asch building, on the top three floors. The factory had a total of four elevators of which only one was used by the workers. In addition, there were two stair cases which were meant to be used for movement from the street to the factory. Of the two staircases, only one of them was in use. The other staircase had a closed door in order to avoid insecurity and theft by people within the factory or those outside it. The structure of the factory was crammed since the available space was not comfortable enough to accommodate the great number of employees.
A good number of the workers were immigrants who barely spoke English and felt privileged to work in the factory in spite of the conditions they worked under. When the fire occurred, there was a state of confusion in the factory. A total of 146 workers out of 500 succumbed to death during the incident. For most of them, the cause of death was either smoke inhalation, being trampled to death, falling into elevator shafts, falling from the factory to the street and some even jumped to their death on the street pavement below. Forty nine died of suffocation and burning, thirty six died in the elevator shaft, fifty eight by jumping and three died later after succumbing to injuries. This marked the fourth highest death toll in an industrial accident in U.S history. There was a need to find out the cause of the extensive damage in the factory as well as the numerous deaths that occurred in an occurrence that could have been handled in an easier way.
The factory occupied the eighth, ninth and tenth floors of the building. The fire began in the eighth floor, so somebody on the eighth floor tried to contact those on the other two floors. The problem was that the alert reached those who were on the tenth floor and most were able to escape by the help of other people. On the other hand, those who were on the ninth floor made a big percentage of the people who were injured. This is especially because they were not aware of the fire until there was serious commotion from the other floors. They were even more disadvantaged because the locked stairwell door was the one that led to that particular floor. This is why most of them resorted to jumping and none of them survived. Those who made it to the hospital succumbed to injuries after a few days. If this floor had been alerted earlier, there are chances that they could have been saved and the number of workers that died would have been fewer than the 146 that died. This shows the importance of a fire alarm system since everybody could have been alerted of the fire at the same time and the necessary measures would have been taken immediately.
The conditions in the factory were clearly the cause of the tragedy. From the conditions the employees worked in, this was an accident waiting to happen. First, the fact that only one elevator worked meant that the workers had to queue in orders to use it. This meant that the corridor leading to this one elevator would be crammed in the event that all the workers wanted to use the elevator. In the tragedy, in an effort to get to the elevator first, most of the workers were trampled. In addition to that, the only available fire escape route in the building melted. To make matters worse, in its normal condition, the fire escape was too small for even one person to fit through it. This means that even in the tragedy, chances are that it would not have been efficient.
The fact that escape routes were few is what made some of the workers jump from the building. For instance, the closed stairwell door would have been used for people to directly escape from the building to the street below. The factory also lacked sufficient ventilation especially due to the large number of workers and lack of space. This contributed largely to the death of many workers who suffocated due to smoke. In addition to that, with this kind of congestion it would be close to impossible to stay in the factory and avoid being burnt alive. This explains the deaths of those who died due to burns from the fire and why they could not have escaped the flames.
The factory was owned by Isaac Harris and Max Blanck who had a reputation of burning down their factories in order to be given insurance. This can explain why they did not have the required safety measures in their factory so that it would be easy to destroy the place. The only problem with this was that they had not considered how dangerous it would be in the event of a fire. From the conditions presented, it is clear that the Triangle Factory was not purely an accident. There were outside irresponsibility’s and ignorance’s that contributed to the tragedy that took place.
One of the causes of this was the high level of corruption between the factory heads and the city government. This is why most of the necessary precautions needed in a factory were not installed. These included water sprinklers, fire extinguishers, upgrading of escape routes in an emergency and in the case of the Triangle Factory, repair of the elevator shafts. The fact that these precautions were ignored showed the greed that the people in authority had. Most of them did not have the best interests of their employees at heart. This is also proven by the meagre salaries that the employees were paid. Since most of them were women, it was hard for them to stand up and voice their opinions in light of the working conditions and the fact that they were immigrants. In spite of the negativity that came with the tragedy, it served as an example to all other factories that did not have the necessary precautions. It also led to the setting up of new laws concerning fire emergency and ways of preventing similar tragedies from taking place.
Due to the Triangle Shirtwaist fire a number of safety measures were set up and it was ensured that they were taken up by all industries. The implementation of these measures was so strict that some of the buildings, especially industries were shut down if they did not meet the expected standards. Organisations like the international Ladies’ Garment Workers Union also contributed to ensuring that safety measures were set up to protect those that worked in garment factories and also that they were not underpaid. The fact that the Triangle factory was a garment factory is explains the fast spread of the fire since the garments were highly flammable and they were spread all over the factory. This union was among those that prompted the government to investigate the cause of the Triangle Factory fire. After determining the conditions that caused death, the government then came up with legislations, inspections, insurance which were expected to ensure that there were no similar incidents.
In spite of the conditions that were present and those that caused the death of the workers, the owners were not indicted with manslaughter. This, on the other hand, did not stop the enactment of new laws of fire prevention and safety in the event of a fire. For instance, Sullivan-Hoey Fire prevention law was one among the many laws that were set up. With the new laws, it would be close to impossible to have a fire tragedy ever happening again. It would also be impossible to have people working in unsafe conditions endangering their well being as well as their lives. The Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire not only served as a lesson but also a constant reminder of what ignorance and negligence of people’s safety could do to them and the society at large. It was also an eye opener to the corrupt conditions that existed and prompted the society to work on them as expected.
References- Ask us to: Take my online classes for me Cheap
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