Construction Accidents Mount While Israeli Safety Inspectors on Vacation

Worker killed, several others injured in four severe construction site mishaps on Wednesday.

A construction worker at a building site in Ashkelon, November 25, 2014.
Ilan Assayag

Several serious work accidents, including one that was fatal, occurred Wednesday at Israeli building sites that would ordinarily have been shut down, but only one site was closed because most of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration inspectors are on vacation.

At 10 A.M. a worker was seriously injured at a building site in Hod Hasharon. Under the new safety regulations that went into effect two weeks ago, a serious injury is meant to shut down the building site immediately for at least two days while an investigation is conducted.

However, nearly all the OSHA inspectors, including the work-accident investigators, have been on vacation since August 21 and will not be returning to work until September 4; only one duty inspector is working in case of serious safety incidents. For some reason, the duty inspector never got a report on the accident, and work continued at the building site as usual.

At 2 P.M., a 30-year-old Palestinian worker was killed at a building site on Ilanot Street in Herzliya when a wall fell on him; he was pronounced dead at the scene. It was the 26th death at an Israeli  building site this year.

At 3:55 P.M. a worker was hit by a tractor at a building site on Tzahal Street in Gan Yavne. The 35-year-old man was hospitalized with serious chest injuries.

In Ashdod, a crawler crane fell on its side during construction work on a school on Yanai Street in the Zayin neighborhood, pinning its 60-year-old operator underneath. He was hospitalized with injuries to his extremities. In this case, police closed off the building site and launched an investigation.

The Coalition to Prevent Construction Accidents said the safety administration is not responding to complaints and warnings of safety violations due to the vacation. “You can’t be sure an inspector will come even when they’re not on vacation, so now, forget it,” said Hadas Tagari, director of the coalition. “It’s as if the police or firefighters would go on vacation and wouldn’t respond.”

According to the amendment to the Work Inspection Law passed by the Knesset before it went on recess, a work site must be shut down if an accident there results in death or serious injury. The site must be closed for at least two days for an inspection. The shutdown can be extended for another three days, or an order can be issued to correct safety problems, keeping the site shut for as long as that takes.

On Tuesday the law was enforced for the first time, when a building site on the Gindi Tel Aviv project in the city’s wholesale market was closed for 48 hours, after a 20-year-old worker fell from a height of eight meters and suffered serious injuries.