After 42 Construction Workers Killed This Year, Minister Takes Steps to Fine Negligent Contractors

Enforcement will also be beefed up with the addition of more safety supervisors at building sites.

Police officers at the Netanya construction site where a 37-year-old worker fell to his death, March 29, 2016.
Tomer Appelbaum

For the first time, contractors will be held personally responsible and financially liable for safety defects found at constructions sites under their supervision. Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz, responsible for labor issues, has instructed his ministry’s safety authority to increase the enforcement of safety procedures and to punish violations.

A contractor may have to pay over 35,000 shekels (just under $10,000) if found guilty of such transgressions. Human resource companies will also pay fines if they are found to not have addressed safety violations that were detected. Warnings will be issued first, followed by fines if problems are not fixed.

The new order constitutes a change to labor law enforcement regulations, drafted by the Social Affairs Ministry. It will now be submitted to the Justice Ministry for approval, as well as to the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health committee. “We intend to create a deterrent system against negligence, which has been rampant in the area of construction. We won’t hesitate to impose fines when contractors don’t abide by safety rules” said Katz.

The minister added that supervisory manpower would be greatly augmented. There are currently only 17 supervisors dealing with 12,000 construction sites, namely 700 sites per supervisor.

Fining contractors was one of the recommendations of the Adam Committee, which looked into safety at construction sites. It concluded that fines would constitute an effective measure. Sanctions would be imposed on contractors who ignore regulations regarding work areas, including elevated spaces, as well as regulations regarding equipment and its maintenance, the operation of cranes, excavations, fencing and the manner in which workers are employed. This includes the monitoring of scaffolding and the appointment of a safety supervisor at each site.

The coalition campaigning against work accidents at construction sites welcomed the decision to impose financial sanctions. They pointed out that more resources and positions were necessary, as well as more vehicles for supervisors, in order to carry out effective supervision of workplace safety. This group appealed to Katz a few weeks ago, asking him to take steps to ensure the safety of construction workers.

Since the beginning of this year, 42 workers have died at construction sites, a record number in the last decade.