Commemoration of the Titanic Sinking: An OHS Disaster

Wednesday, 4 April 2012  Features

Was the Titanic really thought to be 'unsinkable'? Why were there not enough lifeboats onboard? These are just some of the questions to be addressed by Australian School of Business (ASB) academics at a public lecture commemorating the centenary of the sinking of RMS Titanic.

Two of the speakers, Dr Sarah Gregson and Professor Michael Quinlan, Director of the Industrial Relations Research Centre (IRRC), will focus on the workers of RMS Titanic who made that fateful maiden voyage.

"We will be looking at the sinking as an occupational health and safety tragedy of mammoth proportions," said Dr Gregson, the event organiser.

"You can't look at the survival statistics without noticing that the crew were at a distinct disadvantage when it came to getting a seat in a lifeboat," said Dr Gregson. "The only thing that saved many of them was the need to put some crew in each lifeboat to take care of the passengers."

"Back on land, the loss of the Titanic at sea also had a terrible effect on many inhabitants of the working class areas of Southampton, where most of the crew signed on. There were whole streets in which every house had experienced the loss of at least one family member," she said.

Dr Gregson's own great-grandfather was a stoker on the ship who did not survive. Her research was inspired by an attempt to find out what life was like for her great-grandmother, trying to raise five children on her own after her husband was killed.

OHS expert, Professor Quinlan will speak about seamen's conditions of the period and Jim Deakin, from the Maritime Union of Australia, will discuss the safety battles faced by seamen today.

The event is being hosted by Unions NSW and the Sydney Society for the Study of Labour History. It will be held at the Atrium, Sydney Trades Hall, Saturday 14 April 2012 at 7pm.

For further information and comment, contact Dr Sarah Gregson on 0421 641439.