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THE TRIANGLE SHIRTWAIST FACTORY FIRE

As OSHA celebrates 40 years of protecting workers, we also remember the labor pioneers, safety advocates, community leaders and ordinary workers whose vision for a stronger America laid the foundations for the laws that keep workers safe and healthy today. The 100th anniversary of the Triangle shirtwaist factory fire, which killed 146 workers in a New York City garment factory, marks a century of reforms that make up the core of OSHA's mission. Use this page to learn more about a tragic event that led to a "general awakening" that continues to drive OSHA's commitment to workers.

"The worst day I ever saw"

One hundred years ago on March 25, fire spread through the cramped Triangle Waist Company garment factory on the 8th, 9th and 10th floors of the Asch Building in lower Manhattan. Workers in the factory, many of whom were young women recently arrived from Europe, had little time or opportunity to escape. The rapidly spreading fire killed 146 workers.

The building had only one fire escape, which collapsed during the rescue effort. Long tables and bulky machines trapped many of the victims. Panicked workers were crushed as they struggled with doors that were locked by managers to prevent theft, or doors that opened the wrong way. Only a few buckets of water were on hand to douse the flames. Outside, firefighters' ladders were too short to reach the top floors and ineffective safety nets ripped like paper. Read more...

Information from Triangle Fire Remembrance Week

Learn More

These resources provide detailed information on the events of March 25, 1911, working conditions at the beginning of the 20th century, and the impacts of the tragedy on workplace safety and health:

New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health booklet "Dont Mourn Organize" (See page 7: Dr. David Michaels "We must. We will.")

"Triangle Fire" Documentary from American Experience on PBS.

The Kheel Center at Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labor Relations - This site houses an extensive archive of information on the fire. Primary documents include newspaper accounts, interviews with survivors, and a partial transcript of the trial of the factory's owners.

American Society of Safety Engineers - ASSE, America's oldest professional safety organization, was founded six months after the Triangle fire. Its "Century of Safety" site provides information on the fire and the events leading to the establishment of the society.

Triangle Fire Open Archive at the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition An online collection of documents, photographs, and artworks submitted by the public that serves as "a living repository for stories, images and objects about the Triangle fire's history, context, and impact on labor, immigrant, and women's rights and everyday life today."

Poster for the official Workers United/ SEIU centennial commemoration on March 25, 2011
Poster for the official Workers United/ SEIU
centennial commemoration on March 25, 2011
Photo source: International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union Archives, Kheel Center, Cornell University
Fire-fighters could not extinguish the flames or reach the trapped workers, many of whom fell to their deaths from the windows attempting to escape the blaze. Photo source: International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union Archives, Kheel Center, Cornell University

US Labor Department commemorates anniversary of Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire [3/23/12]
Mobile site features audio tour and background of historic event