Conditions like Triangle Shirtwaist still exist

by on May 20, 2015 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

Sixty-nine of 72 workers at a flip-flop and slipper manufacturer in Valenzuela, Philippines, were killed on the second floor after a fire trapped them inside. Workers were apparently trying to escape via windows, but the windows were barred and workers were reportedly seen grasping the bars in an effort to shake them loose.

The fire started at Kemtex Manufacturing when ground-level welders accidentally ignited flammable chemicals. The fire quickly spread, and the fire most likely blocked the exit or exits, trapping them inside.

The case recalls the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist tragedy, where 146 garment workers were trapped in a locked factory in Greenwich Village and were unable to escape when a fire started. Triangle Shirtwaist triggered greater factory safety standards throughout the country. The Philippines has labor laws and some reports indicate the factory was compliant with them, but details are sketchy and an investigation remains open. Charges are expected.

The take-homes for safety managers:

  1. The past isn’t as far back as it may seem. Without regular intervention by safety pros and safety-minded management, conditions can deteriorate in the regular bustle of work. Exits get blocked, fire extinguishers get moved, and workers forget the emergency evacuation plan.
  2. Keep flammables and sparks apart. It sounds obvious, but workers here clearly failed to recognize the danger of welding around flammable materials.

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