Report: Contractors Go Unpunished for Construction Site Deaths

Fifteen workers died in accidents in first three months of 2016, up from 10 in same period last year; over half the deaths occurred at construction sites.

Workers protesting labor conditions on a crane at a Ra'anana construction site on March 2, 2015.
Tomer Appelbaum

In half the cases of death at construction sites the relevant ministry did not impose any sanctions against the contractors, a new report by the Economy Ministry’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration distributed Tuesday revealed.

The report focused on accidents that took place during the first quarter of 2016, and revealed the names of the contractors at whose sites work accidents took place.

The report also reveals that 15 workers were killed in work accidents, as compared to 10 during the corresponding period last year. Over half the dead, eight as compared to six last year, were killed at construction sites. Four workers were killed while working in industry, two in agriculture and another in services and commerce. The report did not include another fatal accident, in which during construction of the new port in Ashdod a 30-year-old Chinese citizen fell from a height to his death.

To date the Economy Ministry has not published the names of the contractors operating the sites where the accidents took place, which prevents a follow-up and public criticism. The head of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, Varda Edwards, claimed in the past that it was illegal to publish these names, and that they were working to change this regulation.

The procedure has since been changed and the names of over 30 firms at whose construction sites accidents have taken place have been made available to the general public, including Danya Cebus, A.A. Shem Tov Hazam, Afridar Housing and Development Israel, Omri Construction and Arazei Hanegev.

However, the ministry has yet to publish the names of the dead, as opposed to the identities of those killed in traffic accidents and terror attacks, whose names are published immediately after the family has been notified. The ministry claims that publication of the names is the responsibility of the police, who request the families’ approval. Nor is there any reference to lethal injuries, although over 60 workers have been reported moderately to severely injured since the start of the year.

The report indicates that in only two of the fatal accidents was work stopped completely until safety at the sites was arranged, with a safety management program and an improvement order that mandates the appointment of a person responsible for safety in the company carrying out the work.

In another two fatal accidents a safety order was imposed and the work was stopped only partially, and in the other five cases the ministry imposed no sanctions against the contractors. In other words, in over half the cases of death at construction sites the ministry took no action against the contractors.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration said in response: “In a case of death at a workplace, the incident is the responsibility of the Israel Police, who investigate the incident at the site. In this context, the police are supposed to do everything necessary for conducting the investigation, including closing the site of the incident, investigating the incident and deciding whether it should be classified as a work accident or whether it was actually a crime, suicide or an incident of some other kind.”