Construction Workers Indicted for Negligent Homicide in Death of Coworker in Central Israel

45-year-old Chinese national was killed when a crane allegedly hit a protruding beam that fell on him and penetrated his construction helmet

The construction site in Ramle where a construction worker was killed in April 2019.
David Bachar

Two construction workers were charged on Sunday with negligent homicide in the death in the central Israeli city of Ramle of a 45-year-old coworker who was a Chinese national.

The indictment of Husam Marab and Ahmed Abu Khadir in the death of Shi Hui last April was the first from an investigation by the new Peles workplace accident unit of the Israel Police, which was created in part to speed up the investigation of workplace accidents.

The police completed their investigation in August and recommended indicting five employees at the construction site, including the work supervisor. Prosecutors did not respond to a question from Haaretz as to why the supervisor and other suspects were not indicted. The Zafrir and Zohar Sharbat firm is responsible for the project.

The indictment alleges that Abu Khadir, who is an electrician, and another electrician were brought in to perform work on the building and that Abu Khadir decided to use the construction crane there to carry up his equipment in a sack. Safety rules require that only trained, certified personnel load a crane and that only trained personnel provide direction to the crane operator. The rules do not allow equipment to be lifted by crane in a sack.

According to the indictment, the person responsible for directing the crane operator refused help Abu Khadir, who then gave directions himself to the operator. The crane was incapable of properly lifting the sack to the fifth floor and the two defendants did not use the appropriate scaffolding at the site, on which the sack could have been safely placed, according to the charges, and as a result, the crane struck metal beams protruding from a balcony 24 meters (79 feet) above the ground.

The beams fell on Shi, who was working on the ground near the building. One of the beams hit his safety helmet but it penetrated it and killed him.

The nine-month period between the beginning of the investigation and the filing of criminal charges is considered very short for a construction accident investigation. The limited number of indictments filed in such cases can take years. In 2019, 17 indictments were filed in Israel in workplace accidents involving death or injury.

Police investigators said they found a long list of safety violations at the Ramle construction site and that Marab and Abu Khadir’s actions were just part of a series of “actions and circumstances that together contributed to the fatal result.”

Hadas Tagari, who heads a coalition combating construction and industrial accidents, praised the filing of the criminal charges but criticized the fact that the managers at the construction site were not charged as well. This is another example of an incident in which only lower-level workers face trial while the owners and managers responsible for the construction site are not, she said.