Labor Press March 2011
Assemblyman Rory Lancman
Chair, Subcommittee on Workplace Safety
In Honor of the Fallen
The 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory tragedy in New York City radically altered the way that we conceive of workplace environments. The gross violation of basic human safety at the factory was a turning point for workers and governmental entities in improving working life. The fire made clear the urgent need to extend real safety precautions to the workplace.
In the aftermath of the fire, labor organizations led an effort to force policy makers to establish the New York State Department of Labor, at the same time that workers themselves were realizing the benefits of labor representation and forming and joining unions. Today, in the state Legislature, the Subcommittee on Workplace Safety is entirely dedicated to the well being of workers.
Yet even with the combined effort of the state Department of Labor, the Subcommittee on Workplace Safety and the vibrant labor movement in New York, there is still much more that needs improvement. The ongoing process includes preventing workplace violence, providing health care employees with proper equipment to avoid injuries while lifting and maneuvering patients, implementing controls to impede the spread of infectious diseases, offering safety training to young people before entering the workforce and ensuring that actors are effectively trained to safely perform their dazzling stunts on stage. We all have a role to play in ensuring that our workplaces are safer.
The lessons learned from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire are manifold, and we have an obligation to use this knowledge to prevent workplace disasters from occurring in the future.