A construction worker was killed and four others injured in five separate accidents at building sites throughout the country on Wednesday, bringing the overall deathtoll of laborers in Israel in 2016 to 22.
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The first accident occurred at 9 A.M. in Rishon Letzion, resulting in the death of Abed Harush, 29, a plasterer from Yatta. Harush, who fell from scaffolding at a height of four stories, was taken to Assaf Harofeh Hospital, where he later died of his injuries.
He fell as he was preparing to descend scaffolding that had previously been reported as faulty due to its lack of the requisite safety railings. In March, the Economy Ministry issued an order that the problem be fixed – and maintains that it was. Yet the same problem appears to have been the cause of yesterday’s accident.
The Coalition against Construction Accidents, which reported the scaffolding to the ministry in March, also cited numerous other serious safety problems at the site, including workers who worked without a safety harness or a helmet.
The company responsible for the site is A.A. Shem Tov Hazam. A number of people responsbile for the site were held by the police after the accident and questioned under caution as possible suspects in a crime.
A ministry inspector issued a stop-work order at the site following yesterday’s accident.
In the other accidents Wednesday, a 40-year-old worker in Haifa suffered moderate chest injuries after being hit by a heavy object; a worker in his twenties was hospitalized in serious condition after falling from a height of about 10 meters in Rosh Ha’ayin; a Chinese worker of about 40 was hospitalized in serious condition after falling from a height of 12 meters in Ra’anana; and a 37-year-old worker suffered moderate head injuries after a fall in Petah Tikva.
Since the start of the year, 22 construction workers have been killed in building site accidents, with the most common cause of death being falling from height. About two-thirds of those killed were Israeli Arabs or Palestinians, and about a quarter were migrant laborers, according to data compiled by the coalition for fighting construction accidents.
Over the past five days alone, there have been eight accidents.
“The government’s abandonment of any responsibility for the safety of these workers is so severe and so extreme that it’s hard not to conclude that this is a deliberate policy of preferring cheap, speedy construction and the interests of the construction companies over the lives and health of the workers,” said Hadas Tagari, the coalition’s executive director.
“Over the past two months, virtually no complaints about sites where there have been repeated accidents, or sites at which workers were documented in life-threatening situations, have been answered, and they [the sites] continue to operate without let or hindrance,” Tagari continued.
“We don’t know of any case in which criminal proceedings have been instituted against companies at whose sites serious safety problems were documented.”
Reuven Ben Shimon, a safety officer at a construction company who founded the forum for the prevention of work accidents, said he saw no choice but to pass legislation dismantling the Economy Ministry’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, because “it isn’t doing its job.”