Number of Work-accident Deaths in 2019 Is Highest in Two Decades

86 workers died this year, most of them in the construction industry, marking a 23 percent increase over the previous year

An ambulance arrives at the scene of an Ashdod construction accident, in which a 30-year-old laborer was crushed by a collapsed elevator, December 24, 2019.
Ilan Assayag

More people died in work accidents in 2019 than in any year since 1995, according to a report published on Tuesday by the workers’ rights organization Kav LaOved.

In total, 86 workers died in 2019, a 23 percent increase over the previous year. This is at sharp odds with the Labor Ministry’s work plan for 2019, which set a goal of reducing deaths from work accidents by 10 percent.

Altogether, there were 420 work accidents in 2019 in which 352 people were injured, including 197 who were moderately to seriously injured.

More than half of all accidents – 56 percent – were in the construction industry, which also accounted for more than half the deaths, at 47. These figures are highly disproportionate, since the construction industry accounts for only eight percent of all Israeli employees.

This, too, is at variance with the ministry’s work plan for 2019, which called for reducing the number of deaths in the construction industry by 10 percent. Instead, the number actually rose 12 percent.

Industry accounted for 15 percent of work deaths, trade and services accounted for 19 percent, agriculture accounted for eight percent and other sectors for three percent.

Of the 86 workers killed, 29 were Jews, 23 Israeli Arabs, 23 were Palestinians, nine were migrant workers and two were workers whose identity hasn’t been published.

The report also showed that, as in previous years, the most common reason for fatal accidents was falling from a height. This accounted for 36 percent of all accidents and was the leading cause of death in both the construction industry and the trade and services sector. Other common causes of death were being hit by either a work vehicle and or a heavy falling object.

Kav LaOved said the government has yet to implement the conclusions of the 2014 Adam Committee report, which recommended setting up a national work safety authority.

“In the construction industry, we see a complete lack of deterrence,” the organization continued. “Financial penalties aren’t imposed on contractors over safety problems, sites are closed for just 48 hours, most accidents aren’t investigated, and in those that are investigated, the process doesn’t result in the full force of the law being exerted.

“In this vacuum that the regulator has created, in this absence of enforcement and information, the job has been left to civil society,” it added.