Today in Labor History

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Archive for the tag “safety and health”

January 15, 1919


A 58 ft. high metal tank, 90 ft. in diameter, filled with 2.5 million gallons of crude molasses bursts in Boston, and the explosion sends a 40 ft. tall tidal wave of molasses and debris crashing down Commercial Street. What became known as the Boston Molasses Flood killed 21 workers and residents and injured another 150. After many years of litigation, the United States Industrial Alcohol Company was eventually found culpable and forced to pay a million dollar settlement.

December 29, 1970


After years of intensive lobbying by organized labor, President Richard Nixon signs the Occupational Safety & Health Act, creating the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), an agency of the Department of Labor. Speaking for the bill, Representative William A. Steiger said, “In the last 25 years, more than 400,000 Americans were killed by work-related accidents and disease, and close to 50 million more suffered disabling injuries on the job.”

November 13, 1974

Who_killed_silkwood_christicUnion activist and whistleblower Karen Silkwood dies under “mysterious circumstances” while en route to a meeting with an Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union health and safety staffer and a New York Times investigative reporter. She was bringing them documents proving that the company she worked for – Kerr-McGee Nuclear Corporation – had falsified quality control records of nuclear fuel rods.

September 12, 2012

120913030231-karachi-factory-fire-photo-horizontal-large-galleryA fire at a textile factory complex in Karachi, Pakistan, kills nearly 300 workers trapped behind locked doors and barred windows. It happened just hours after another fire at a shoe factory in Lahore killed at least 25 workers. Labor leaders blamed government abandonment of enforcing laws and regulations established to ensure workplace health and safety.

August 9, 1965

image003During construction repair work at the Titan II Launch Complex outside Searcy, Arkansas, a flash fire sucks the oxygen out of the silo, killing 53 of the 55 workers inside. The Air Force blamed the fire on human error; the surviving workers said that a mechanical fault started the fire.

March 20, 1905

1576595_origThe R.B. Grover shoe factory in Brockton, Massachusetts, collapses and bursts into flames after its old boiler explodes and shoots up through three floors and the roof. 58 people were killed and 150 injured. The incident led to passage of a national boiler safety code.

March 17, 1960

March 17Five Italian immigrant workers die in an underground tunnel at a water main construction project in suburban Toronto, Canada. The Hoggs Hollow Disaster drew public attention to the unsafe conditions in construction and the exploitation of immigrant workers, and led to the strengthening of Ontario’s labor laws.

February 5, 2015

2.5.15 MemeToday, Cal/OSHA – California’s state-run OSHA office – is holding a meeting to discuss a draft of what will be the nation’s first ever comprehensive workplace violence prevention regulation for healthcare workers. Healthcare and social assistance workers experience the most assaults on the job, accounting for almost 60 percent of violent assaults in the workplace, but management’s response too often is that it is just “part of the job.”

January 5, 1933

January 5Construction officially begins on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Safety netting suspended under the floor of the bridge from end to end saved the lives of nineteen workers; however, ten of the eleven deaths on the job occurred when a section of scaffold fell through the net. The bridge opened in 1937 and was, until 1964, the longest suspension bridge main span in the world.

June 13, 1926


Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union leader and labor activist Tony Mazzocchi is born in Brooklyn, NY.  Mazzocchi was an advocate for workers’ health and safety, pushing the passage in 1970 of Occupational Safety and Health Act, and a key voice in the “right to know” movement” in the 1980s.

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