Today in labor history: Deadly chemical plant explosion in 1971

On Feb. 3, 1971 there was a major explosion at the Thiokol Chemical Plant located near Woodbine, Georgia. The dead numbered 29 but, in addition, 50 other workers were seriously wounded. Among the numerous types of vehicles used to evacuate workers and bring them to hospitals and morgues were Navy helicopters.

Subsequent investigations found that the company was entirely to blame for the deaths and injuries. Chemicals were mislabeled and improperly stored. There were no adequate fire safety procedures in place. Today the Occupational Safety and Health Administration works, despite inadequate funding and staffing, to prevent tragedies like the one that happened at Thiokol. Nevertheless, industrial accidents continue to take the lives of workers.

Back in 1941, also on Feb. 3, the Supreme Court came down on the side of workers when it upheld the Wages and Hours Act banning child labor and establishing a 40-hour work week.

On Feb. 3 back in 1918, however, the Court came out against workers. It ruled that the United Hatters Union violated the Sherman Antitrust Act by organizing a national boycott of Danbury Hatters of Connecticut.

Photo: Location of Thiokol plant and Woodbine in Camden County, Georgia. Wikipedia (CC)



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