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October 04, 2023
Secretary Su, ASSP to unveil Triangle Shirtwaist memorial

Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su will join American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) President Jim Thornton and New York Governor Kathy Hochul on October 11 to dedicate a memorial in New York City to the 146 garment workers killed in the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the ASSP announced September 27.

The ASSP was founded months after the fire as the United Association of Casualty Inspectors.

The stainless-steel memorial is on a corner of the Brown Building at Washington Place and Greene Street—the site of the fire in Manhattan. The main body of the memorial resembles a ribbon, according to the ASSP, descending from the 9th floor, where most of the deaths occurred.

Twelve feet above the sidewalk, the memorial splits horizontally to flank the building’s facades. The names and ages of the victims are stenciled into the ribbon and appear in a reflective panel at street level.

The ASSP contributed $32,519.11 to the memorial’s construction, evoking the seven digits of the fire’s date (3/25/1911). The ASSP Foundation donated an additional $25,000 to the project.

“The Triangle fire inspired our country to address workplace safety in an organized way that didn’t previously exist,” Thornton said in a statement. “The horrific incident led to a series of laws and regulations that better protected workers. And ASSP continues to advance worker safety and health to this day.”

OSHA’s vigorous ‘means of egress’ enforcement

During the Triangle fire, exit doors were locked, and other doors only opened inward, making it impossible for workers to get out of the building. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) exit routes (means of egress) standard (29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1910 Subpart E) is one of the agency’s oldest, first promulgated on May 12, 1971 (36 Fed. Reg. 8,754).

The agency vigorously enforces the standard and has cited several discount retailers for exit route violations.

The agency reached a settlement agreement in August with Dollar Tree Stores, Inc., the operator of discount retailers Dollar Tree and Family Dollar stores, to resolve exit route violations, as well as violations that include blocked electrical panels and fire extinguishers and improperly stacked boxes of merchandise. Dollar Tree Stores agreed to a nationwide assessment of the root causes of the violations OSHA has cited at multiple locations, with a plan to identify causes and make operational changes to correct them within a 2-year period.

Dollar Tree also agreed to pay $1.35 million in penalties to settle contested and open inspections. OSHA also has frequently cited Dollar Tree Stores competitor Dollar General for exit route violations.

“Dollar General continues to expose its employees to unsafe conditions at its stores across the nation,” Doug Parker, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, said in a May 23 agency statement, when the agency announced Dollar General faced $3.4 million in OSHA fines.

OSHA reached a settlement agreement in 2020 with the Target Corporation, resolving violations that included blocked or obstructed access to emergency exits and fire exit routes and/or unsafe storage of materials in stores’ backrooms and storage areas at Target stores in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York.

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