An Israeli employer of a Palestinian man who died on Tuesday after his truck overturned in the West Bank notified the police about the work accident only hours later and neglected to tell them the employee had died.
Majdi Majed Hamad, 37, of the West Bank Palestinian town of Yatta had been employed at the Natuf quarry owned by Shapir Engineering and Manufacturing in the West Bank settlement of Modi'in Illit. The company said it had not known at the time of the police report that he had died.
Palestinian employees of Israeli firms who are injured in work accidents are entitled to treatment at Israeli hospitals and sending them there is the employer’s responsibility. But instead of calling the Israeli Magen David Adom emergency medical service to take Hamad to an Israeli hospital, his employers called the Palestinian Red Crescent, which allegedly took half an hour to arrive and to extract him from his truck before taking him to Ramallah in the West Bank.
According to his family, by the time Hamad got to the hospital, he was dead. The company denied that there was a delay in the arrival of the ambulance and said it was decided to take Hamad to a hosptial in Ramallah after the firm had encountered prior problems in getting Palestinians through checkpoints into Israel. A relative of Hamad's had also requested a Red Crescent ambulance, Shapir added.
“We want to know why they waited for the Red Crescent to come and didn’t call Magen David Adom,” his brother Amjad told Haaretz. “He was injured at 10:50 P.M. but only got to the hospital at midnight. Magen David Adom could have gotten there in 10 minutes.”
Because the accident was not reported to Magen David Adom, the Israeli authorities, including the police, didn’t immediately know anything about it.
It was only early in the morning that the quarry reported to police that one of its workers had been injured. According to Shapir, the quarry manager came to the Modi'in Illit police station at 4 A.M., but didn’t file a report because the security guard there said there was no one to take it. As a result, the accident wasn't formally reported until 8:30 A.M.. By then, the Yatta municipality had already posted news of his death on Facebook.
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Hamad’s family was determined to understand the circumstances of the accident and that morning they called a lawyer, Nizar Assi, and went to the quarry to photograph the scene of the accident. “They think we don’t understand what’s going on, but we work in Israel and drive trucks,” said Jahed, Hamad’s cousin. Family members claimed the quarry manager tried to bar their entry.
The lawyer came to the site in the afternoon and asked police to summon an investigator from the Israeli Labor Ministry’s safety administration, but Israeli work safety laws do not apply in the West Bank and the Occupational Safety Administration doesn’t oversee labor safety or investigate work accidents there. Assi said he informed the police that Majdi Hamad's body was in Ramallah and that the family wished to bury the man as soon as possible but he didn't receive an answer unti the evening, by which time the body had been buried.
According to the lawyer, the truck Hamad was driving was carrying sand and overturned on a hill where he was unloading it. Photos from the night of the accident show the truck upside down. The family is alleging negligence on the employer's par, because they say, the incline that the truck was ascending had no sand barrier and collapsed after material was removed from underneath it.
In July, a worker at Shapir’s Etziona quarry near Beit Shemesh was killed when boulders fell on him. According to a preliminary examination by the Occupational Safety Administration, the boulders dropped on the 72-year-old employee as a result of a blast at the quarry.
That was not the first explosion that caused damage at the quarry, the Ynet news website reported. The previous month, a similar blast damaged the windows and roofs of cars parked in a nearby parking lot. According to the safety administration, the quarry manager in Beit Shemesh and the man responsible for the blasts are both facing proceedings that might result in their licenses being revoked.
Eleven safety-related orders have been issued in connection with other sites that the company operates, but the safety administration has no authority at the quarry that the company operates in the West Bank.
“Work safety legislation doesn’t apply to the West Bank, so the Occupational Safety Administration doesn’t oversee worker safety there, leaving workers without the protection of law or oversight. They are not even counted in the official figures for work accident fatalities. Given this serious government omission, there is special importance in conducting a comprehensive and thorough police investigation,” said Hadas Tagari, who heads a group that monitors accidents in the construction and industry.
In response, Shapir Engineering expressed its sorrow over its employee's death and added in part that it "considers the meticulous observance of safety rules and regulations a supreme value. With regard to the accident, it appears that this is not a matter of company negligence, and for understandable reasons we will not elaborate because of the sensitivity of the issue."
“The decision to call the Red Crescent was made by the shift manager, for among other reasons, because a relative of the deceased, an employee who was on site, requested it. It should be noted that the shift manager, who in the past had had problems transferring Palestinians to Israel, decided to evacuate him in a Red Crescent ambulance specifically because he wanted to evacuate [Hamad] to a hospital as quickly as possible and was concerned about problems at the checkpoint into Israel. According to the company’s information, the Red Crescent ambulance came within a quarter of an hour at most from when it was called, and it evacuated Hamad to a hospital while he showed signs of life."
“Unlike what was claimed, the quarry manager presented himself before dawn at the Modi’in Ilit [police] station and waited, on instructions from the duty officer, for a competent authority to take the report. When the report was submitted, it had not been known that [Hamad} had died, and when this became known to the company, the quarry manager was sent to tell the police.