Israel Clamps Down on Construction Industry in Bid to Stop Work-related Deaths

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A Palestinian worker checks fixings on a new housing development at Ma'aleh Adumim, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank
A Palestinian worker checks fixings on a new housing development at Ma'aleh Adumim, an Israeli settlement in the West BankCredit: Bloomberg

The Labor Ministry has decided to shut down 30 construction sites where acute dangers were found, even if nobody has been hurt there.

Until now, it has only shut down building sites if someone was killed or seriously injured, and then only for 48 hours.

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The new decision, to be implemented over the coming months, is a pilot project that will take place in Rehovot and Bnei Brak. After studying the results, the ministry may expand it to other cities.

Bnei Brak was chosen because it is currently experiencing a boom in high-rise construction, and the work often violates safety regulations. Rehovot was chosen because a fatal accident took place there a week ago, in which a construction worker fell from a tall height, and because two other dangerous sites have recently been closed there.

The pilot is being run in cooperation with the police and state prosecution.

On Sunday, Labor Ministry inspectors ordered the first four sites – three in Rehovot and one in Bnei Brak – to be closed for 30 days. Two of the Rehovot sites were closed because the contractor, Mordechai Schmil, ignored a stop-work order issued for failing to appoint a safety inspector and operating a work environment that put workers at risk.

The third Rehovot site, where a mall is being built over a gas station, was shut down because the contractor, Solpaz Properties and Buildings, didn’t report the site’s existence to the ministry and because many safety problems were found there that endangered both workers and passersby.

At the Bnei Brak site, the contractor, Yesh Lee Or Construction Company, was questioned by police for failing to appoint a safety inspector, failing to report the construction project to the ministry and endangering workers and passersby.

“We’ll continue stepping up enforcement until contractors grasp that anyone who is negligent will pay,” Labor Minister Haim Katz said. “I regret that the multiple injuries and deaths to date haven’t sufficed to end this culture of ‘it’ll be okay.’”

Eleven construction workers have been killed since January 2018.

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