Turkish Man Crushed to Death in Israel Brings This Year's Death Toll of Construction Workers to 15

Bnei Brak site of fatal accident saw two other workers severely injured there in last six months

The construction site in Ashdod where a Chinese worker fell five stories to his death, February 21, 2016.
Ilan Assayag

A construction worker was killed on Wednesday at a building site in Bnei Brak where two other serious accidents occurred in the past six months.

The worker, a Turkish national, was crushed when a sheet of concrete fell on him. He is the 15th construction worker to be killed on the job this year.

The accident took place at a site owned by the Israel Land Development Corporation. The work is being done by Omer Construction and Engineering.

In February, a worker was seriously injured at this site when a scaffold collapsed and an iron bar pierced his body. Earlier this month, another worker at the site was electrocuted.

Moreover, in the past three months the Labor Ministry has issued three orders demanding the correction of safety problems at three other sites run by Omer – in Jerusalem, Dimona and Yeruham. Last October, the company was also slapped with a safety order for a site in Bat Yam.

The coalition for fighting construction accidents said on Wednesday that a systemic failure has led to repeated accidents at the same sites.

“Has the registrar of contractors done anything in the case of Omer Engineering?” asked the coalition’s director, Hadas Tagari. “Has the company been asked to provide a response to the multiple accidents at its sites, and the safety orders against them? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is apparently negative. We don’t know of even a single case in which the registrar of contractors took action to rescind a construction company’s license for endangering its workers’ safety, and construction companies continue to work without hindrance even with terrible safety records.”

Labor Ministry defends its safety enforcement

The Labor Ministry confirmed Omer’s record of previous accidents and safety orders, adding that according to its records, the company manages 15 sites nationwide. But it insisted that its Occupational Safety and Health Administration was conducting “enforcement operations on a large scale, and if necessary stopping construction work when serious safety problems are discovered.”

“In addition, in cases of serious accidents, the site is closed for at least 48 hours,” the ministry added. “Safety orders are frequently brought to the notice of the registrar of contractors, and we expect him to take action against problematic contractors based on this information.”

Omer said company executives were at the site with ministry representatives and were providing them all requested information.

Meanwhile, several organizations petitioned the High Court of Justice on Wednesday to demand that the ministry immediately publish the names of contractors served with safety orders. The groups consider this crucial to mobilizing public pressure on the companies.

Today, the ministry publishes such orders on its website only six to eight weeks after issuing them. It says the delay is necessary to enable contractors the appeal the order.

“Failure to publish the orders in real time, like publishing limited information that doesn’t include the substance of the safety problems for which the order was issued, or the names of the responsible companies at those building sides, endangers workers at those sites by depriving them of basic information in real time about safety conditions at their workplace,” the petition said. “Life-threatening situations known to the Labor Ministry are kept secret from the workers and the public – the potential victims who could pay for them with their lives or bodily health.”

The petitioners include Tagari’s coalition, the Forum for the Prevention of Work Accidents, Kav LaOved and the Workers’ Advice Center.