Students will be able to:
- Evaluate worker safety issues using the Triangle Fire and current black lung disease outbreak.
- Explain the need for government regulations protecting workers.
In this economics lesson, students study job safety using the Triangle Fire and black lung outbreak.
Ask students if they have thought about what kind of jobs they would like to have. Write their answers on the board. Then, ask students if they have ever thought about the potential risks of performing that job or about any workplace safety issues that could impact them while at work. Tell them this lesson will help them understand the importance of workplace safety and the changes that have been made to reduce the potential of being injured on the job.
Tell students they will be examining the issue of job safety for U.S. workers by comparing two different problems happening almost 100 years apart. Provide each student with a copy of the Worker Rights in America Survey Review the instructions, reminding them to identify the one worker right they think is most important and to give the reason for their choice on the back of their paper. After students have completed their ratings, tally the number of “3 – very important” or “4 – essential” responses to each statement. Calculate (or have students calculate) the percentage of students who chose these responses.
Discuss this activity using the following questions:
- What rights did the class view as important? Why?
- What rights did the class view as less important? Why?
- Is there one category of rights – economic security, equal treatment or reasonable working conditions – that was generally rated more important than the others?
- Is there one category that was generally rated less important?
- What are the similarities and differences between the students’ opinions? What might account for the differences?
Tell students that 98% of workers today have said that having a safe and healthy workplace is important or essential. Have them respond to that statement by discussing some of the reasons a safe and healthy work environment is beneficial to workers and employers.
Put students in small groups. Tell them that half of the groups will be researching an event that happened about 100 years ago in New York and the other half will be researching an ongoing health problem in the U.S. coal mines. Provide each student with a copy Developing a Worker Safety Fact Sheet, explaining that each group should use only the resources for their assigned topic (the Triangle Fire or Black Lung Disease) to develop their Fact Sheet. Each Fact Sheet should include at least ten statements about their assigned topic. Be sure each student completes a Fact Sheet for a follow-up assignment. After students have completed their research, have each group share their findings with the rest of the class. Explain that while working conditions and government regulations have greatly improved since the Triangle Fire, there are still hazardous jobs and working conditions for many workers. Remind them that all career choices have costs, but jobs in some industries have much greater safety costs than others. Ask them to identify possible high-risk jobs in their community (police, fire, manufacturing with big equipment, construction, etc.)
Put students into pairs, matching one from a Triangle Fire group with one from a Black Lung group. Distribute copies of the Double Bubble Map for Triangle Fire and Black Lung Disease. Tell students they will work in pairs to complete the map, identifying three things the two issues have in common and three ways in which they differ.
Have students write a brief summary of the two events. Their summary should include one cost associated with these issues and one benefit resulting from them.
Show students the following video: Workplace Safety: Safety at Work – Tips on Workplace Safety which focuses on tips for teens in the workplace. After viewing the video, ask students these questions: Why are younger workers more likely to be injured at work? What steps can you take to reduce the potential of being injured?
Show students the video on Planet Money Makes a Shirt [INSERT LINK] about the Rana Plaza textile factory collapse. Have them discuss the similarities and differences between this disaster and the Triangle Fire disaster.
Use the Bureau of Labor National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2017 at to examine recent data on civilian occupations with high fatal work injuries. After reviewing the charts and basic information provided, put students in small groups to research them in more detail or to follow-up on additional links in the bulletin. Have students present their reports to the class.
Presenter: Theresa Fischer