Improvements in workplace safety over 20 years since Hamlet plant fire

Many in North Carolina are recognizing the improvement in workplace safety in the state since the 20th anniversary of the Hamlet plant fire earlier this month.

On September 3, 1991, a fire broke out at chicken processing plant in Hamlet.  The fire was caused by a ruptured hydraulic line which released flammable liquids that caught fire when they came into contact with a deep fryer at the plant.  Smoke and flames engulfed the Imperial Food Products plant and 25 people were killed.  One brave employee was able to break through a locked door and save the lives of 25 other employees at the plant.

Operating for 11 years before the tragic industrial accident, the plant had never been inspected by state officials.  After the fire, inspectors found 80 workplace safety violations.

Federal Occupational Safety and Health officials condemned North Carolina’s Labor Department for employing too few inspectors and not issuing sufficient serious safety and health violations.  By 1993, there were double the number of investigators in the state than there were in 1990.

Now, North Carolina has a declining rate of workplace injuries and illnesses and a rate lower than most other states in the country.