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Triangle Shirtwaist company owners Max Blanck and Isaac Harris were responsible for the deaths in their factory during the Triangle Factory Fire (1911) because they neglected workers and did not have as many fire precautions as they should have. Had the two paid more attention and been aware of the risks and had plans of what to do in case of fire, less people would have died. They were responsible in both a moral and a legal way; they broke codes, and by doing so, neglected their workers.
The building that Blanck and Harris operated out of, called the Asch building, had some faults that Blanck and Harris should have tried to accommodate for. The building inspector insisted that the fire escape lead down to something more substantial than a skylight, but in the final building the escape still led down to a second story skylight. The most important code that Blanck and Harris broke was that of factory doors; New York law states that all doors leading into or out of factories must open outwards and cannot be bolted or locked during working hours. On the ninth floor, the Washington Place Door – as it was called – did not open outward. Furthermore, during the time of the fire, the door was kept locked, blocking a potential escape path for many workers, and resulting in the death of some of them. It was impossible for the owners not to have known of the door being locked, for in the court cases that ensued they claimed it was to keep union workers out, or to prevent theft, even though the total amount of theft amounted to less than $25. Had the owners tried to accommodate for the building not following all of these codes, a great many deaths could have been avoided during the fire.
Furthermore, the company had no fire drill – meaning that workers would panic and not know what to do in case of a fire. This also led to many deaths in the factory. Scraps of flammable cloth were allowed to pile up unheeded by the tables, and not a lot of money was spent on fire precautions despite five previous fires which should have been sufficient warning. Had the owners taken more fire precaution, less lives would have been lost for sure.
Had Blanck and Harris actually paid attention to what was going on around them, had they cared about their workers, had they followed NY law, many lives would have been saved. However, they did not; the workers were neglected, as were the laws; and therefore, Blanck and Harris were responsible, both morally and legally, for the deaths in the fire.
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