Israeli Labor Ministry Reveals: Grave Safety Violations in Construction Work Were Hidden From the Public

The ministry highlights 700 safety violations- many leading to fatal accidents- that transpired between 2012-2016; since the beginning of 2018, 10 construction workers have died in Israel

A construction site in the northern Israeli city of Tiberias.
Gil Eliahu

State authorities withheld information from the public about hundreds of serious safety violations in hundreds of construction sites, and refrained from taking steps against contractors for repeated safety violations and for endangering workers’ lives in recent years, the Labor Ministry disclosed on Wednesday.

The ministry said it had found 700 serious safety violations in 400 construction sites in 2012-2016. Also, the companies responsible for the 700 worst safety violations did not fix the hazards, despite orders to do so, the ministry said.

“If the information had been released in real time and the contractors’ registrar had acted against negligent companies or revoked their license, fatal accidents could have been prevented,” said Hadas Tagari, who heads The Group Against Building Accidents.

The Danya Cebus company committed the largest number of serious safety violations, 13, on its construction sites. Second came the Umm Brothers with 11 serious safety violations and Shatit with 10. Five companies committed eight violations each: the Uzan Brothers, Omer, Asum, Ashtrom, Electra and BST. Avisror and Sons committed seven grave violations.

Fatal accidents occurred on numerous construction sites after the ministry had found serious safety violations in them and ordered the companies to stop the work and fix the hazards. Since the beginning of 2018, 10 construction workers have been killed and nine seriously injured in work site accidents. In 2017, 35 people were killed and 228 were hurt, suffering moderate to serious injuries.

This information had been kept from the public, but was made available to government bodies, including the Housing Ministry’s contractors’ registrar. Despite this, these authorities did not use this information to indict contractors or take other measures against them.

Only after civic groups demanded the publication of this information for about a year did Labor Minister Haim Katz agree to release it, subject to Justice Ministry restrictions.

“The information about safety violations was kept secret, despite its importance to the lives of workers and passers-by,” a Kav La’oved-Workers Hotline official said. “This information is extremely important to enable the public to supervise contractors and insist that they fulfill safety regulations.”

The most blatant safety violations involve failure to appoint a work manager, operating cranes in a dangerous manner, failure to notify of construction, employment of a youth to work at heights and failing to fence sites properly. Some 270 orders were issued regarding safety offenses associated with cranes, 158 of them for operating cranes despite orders forbidding it.

Nine workers were killed on Danya Cebus sites in recent years, six of them due to the collapse of a parking structure under construction on Tel Aviv’s Habarzel Street in September 2016. Nine of the safety violations had been found on Danya Cebus sites before the parking lot collapsed.

On one of the Umm Brothers’ sites, work proceeded without a work manager and on another a dangerous crane was operated.

Reuven Ben Shimon, founder of the Forum for the Prevention of Work Accidents, said: “This information will enable the public and social organizations to act against those companies, and deny their participation in government bids and demand tighter government supervision on their sites.”

Katz said, “The contractors should take responsibility and improve the safety conditions ... to stop the killing on building sites.”