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Deaths, injuries: Titanic construction costs

One hundred years ago, the world was repeatedly stunned and amazed by the shipbuilding project that resulted in the Titanic. The sheer size of the proposed project to ferry people to New York from Southampton was astonishing back in the early 1900s. When its luxurious amenities were described in the press, they, too, were startling in scope.

When work began on the leviathan, the world was again impressed. This time, it was the safety record of the construction that prompted compliments. Though there were nearly 250 documented cases of severe work-related injuries and 10 deaths in the construction of the Titanic, in those days, that was considered a remarkably high standard of workplace safety.

It's just one of the many examples of how we've progressed. Today, those numbers would shock us for the opposite reason. They'd reflect an appalling disregard for safety regulations designed to protect workers in the construction of ships, buildings and similarly large projects.

As USA Today noted in a recent article on the doomed behemoth, the Titanic was as long as four city blocks; the equivalent of a 10-story building.

The construction of the unprecedented giant required the shipyards to be torn down and rebuilt to mammoth proportions; the facilities were upscaled 200 percent.

Cranes, elevators and steel-working machinery was erected and installed.

Each of three million rivets in the Titanic would eventually be put into place by hand by skilled workers toiling in dangerous conditions.

We all know how the story of the Titanic ends. As the world looks back on the 100th anniversary of that disaster, it's worth remembering not only that infamous voyage, but also the brave workers of the day. Remember, too, how far we've come in workplace safety standards that allow us to still construct magnificent projects, but in ways protecting the public and workers more than ever.

Source: USA Today: "Titanic's shipbuilders tackled an olympic task," April 12, 2012

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