Construction Worker, Army Contractor Killed in Work Accidents in Central Israel

Activists warn of 'sharp rise' in workplace deaths in 2019, with death toll at 53

Rescue workers at the site of a deadly construction accident, Petach Tikvah, August 6, 2019
Magen David Adom

A civilian contractor for the Israeli army was killed on Tuesday by the explosion of a fire extinguisher at a work site on an army base in central Israel. In a separate incident, a 40-year-old man died after being electrocuted while working on a roof in Petah Tikva.

With the two men's death, the toll of workers killed in accidents in 2019 rose to 53.

38-year-old contractor Shai Gabai was critically wounded and later succumbed to his wounds at Tel Hashomer hospital. Another IDF employee was also wounded in the incident.

Spokespeople for the IDF and the fire service said the blast occurred during “routine work” at a base where smoke bombs are stored.

Emergency services at the scene of a construction-site accident in Petah Tikva, Israel, January 26, 2019.
\ Moti Milrod

>> Read more: Why Israel isn't doing more to prevent construction workers' deaths | Analysis ■ Israel’s construction accidents: Not mishaps, but negligence | Opinion

"There has been a sharp rise in the number of work accidents for a second year in a row," says Dr. Hadas Tagri, director of the Coalition Against Construction Site Accidents. “Summers tend to be particularly deadly, yet site inspectors are often on vacation in August."

The group raised the issue with the Labor Ministry three weeks ago but “our appeal has yet to receive a response,” she said.

In related developments, police and labor inspectors conducted a sweeping safety inspection at construction sites throughout the country.

They found safety hazards at most of the 84 sites they inspected on Tuesday, ordering 49 to be shut down, and issuing 12 with safety citations. Cranes were found to be operated by unlicensed personnel on at least two locations, in the Tel Aviv suburb of Holon and in the northern coastal city of Nahariyya. Staff were questioned by police and issued with warnings.

A Labor Ministry supervisor at a construction site in Ashdod.
Avi Hayoun

The reasons for site closures were due to the absence of a foreman, expired crane licenses, unfenced work sites, as well as other safety standards violations.

Labor Minister Haim Katz said the ministry “is making its utmost efforts to reduce the numbers of people hurt in construction sites. We remain committed to uncompromising enforcement measures, alongside pursuing legislation and enacting of further safety regulations.”

In May, Haaretz revealed that government ministries had failed to act on a November 2018 agreement with the Histadrut labor federation to improve construction site safety.

Haaretz found that most of the agreement had not been implemented, more than six months after it was signed.