With or without government regulations, employers often have a shocking disregard for the safety and well-being of their customers and workers, especially manual labor.
The short list below was created just by combing through the first dozen or so entries in Category:Fire disasters involving barricaded escape routes on Wikipedia -- a small subset of a very specific category of public endangerment -- to find instances which met the criteria of a private interest endangering workers and/or the public.
- 1991-09-03 (Hamlet, North Carolina) Hamlet chicken processing plant fire: 25 workers were killed and 55 injured in the fire, trapped behind locked fire doors. In 11 years of operation, the plant had never received a safety inspection. The plant's operators usually kept the doors of the chicken plant padlocked and the windows boarded, to prevent theft, vandalism or other criminal acts. There had been no safety inspections by the state due to a lack of inspectors. The poultry inspector visited the site daily and knew of the fire violations.
- One worker stated that much of the chicken meat was rotten, and that the reason it was processed into chicken nuggets was to disguise the foul taste. He did not report these violations. Some workers were made nervous by the locked doors but did not voice their concerns for fear of losing their jobs.
- The company was cited in the 1980s for safety violations at its plant in Pennsylvania which included poorly marked or blocked emergency exits; that factory had been closed by the time of this fire.
- The Hamlet plant had three previous fires, but no action was taken to prevent recurrence or to unlock the doors.
- The Hamlet plant had no fire alarm system to warn workers farther back in the plant, and there were no sprinklers in the building.
- 1990-03-25 (New York City) Happy Land fire: 87 people died due to being unable to escape from a revenge arson attack. The club had been ordered closed in November 1988 due to safety violations including lack of fire exits, alarms or sprinkler system, but continued to operate anyway.
- 1977-05-28 (Southgate, Kentucky) Beverly Hills Supper Club fire ~165 people died due to lack of audible fire alarms, lack of a sprinkler system, lack of firewalls, poor construction, and occupancy being about twice the building's rated capacity.
- The fire likely started due to faulty wiring which would never have passed inspection.
- The local volunteer fire department is said by the Enquirer to have known of the deficiencies, but by law, at the time, did not have the authority to compel corrections.
- 1911-03-25 (New York City) Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire: 146 garment workers (123 women and girls and 23 men) died from the fire, smoke inhalation, or falling or jumping to their deaths. Many workers could not escape because the doors to the stairwells and exits were locked – a common practice at the time to prevent workers from taking unauthorized breaks and to reduce theft. The fire led to legislation requiring improved factory safety standards and helped spur the growth of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU), which fought for better working conditions for sweatshop workers.
- 1860-01-10 (Lawrence, Massachusetts) Pemberton Mill: between 88 and 145 workers were killed and 166 injured, with dozens being killed instantly and more than six hundred workers, many of them women and children, trapped in the twisted ruins. The building suddenly collapsed during the workday, apparently due to substandard construction which was then drastically overloaded with second-floor equipment; this was all evident and preventable.
- The building had been sold in 1857 due to a financial panic; the new owners jammed in more machinery in an attempt to boost its profits.
- Spilled lantern oil caught fire during rescue efforts, causing much of the final death and injury toll.
- 2021-04-19 Death by inequality "How workers' lack of power harms their health and safety"
- 2020-07-03 Fear at work "An inside account of how employers threaten, intimidate, and harass workers to stop them from exercising their right to collective bargaining
not in this category
- 1947-04-16 (US/TX/Port of Texas City, Texas) Texas City disaster: it's not clear where the negligence lies
- 1942-11-28 (Boston, Massachusetts) Cocoanut Grove fire: the premises had been inspected by a captain in the Boston Fire Department just ten days before the fire and declared safe. The incident did, however, result in many new safety regulations designed to prevent future such occurrences.