Sunday, September 03, 2006

15th Anniversary Of Hamlet Fire That Killed 25 Workers Locked In The Plant

Fifteen years ago today, twenty-five chicken processing workers were killed when fire swept through the Imperial Food Products Company plant in Hamlet, N.C. A grease fire started on a chicken fryer and spread quickly inside the Imperial Foods Products building. Workers tried desperately to escape the smoke and flames, clawing at exit doors that had been locked to keep the workers from stealing chickens. In it's entire 11 year existence, OSHA had never inspected the plant. Plant owner Emmett Roe, age 65, was sentenced to 19 years, 11 months in prison, but was let out after serving four.

But, of course, some lessons are never learned. In 2004, Wal-Mart was found to be locking janitors in the stores at night "to protect employees from crime in dangerous neighborhoods." And in September 2004, OSHA cited a Mobile, Alabama, Winn Dixie store and proposed $74,000 in penalties for locking in night-shift employees with no means of exiting the building. And, it turns out, the practice of locking workers in stores at night isn't uncommon in New York city.

More on the survivors of the fire here.