Sites of Israeli Building Accidents Aren’t Getting Temporarily Shut Down

According to a new law, the sites must be closed and inspected, but often the sites haven’t been officially licensed, so the state can’t shutter them.

A construction site in Tel Aviv where two workers died.
Moti Milrod

Construction sites where accidents occur have not been shut down despite the new law requiring an investigation into the accident and a rectification of the safety hazards.

According to two workers’ rights groups, Kav La’oved and the Coalition Against Construction Accidents, three such cases have occurred just this month.

Israel is undergoing an epidemic of construction accidents; last year a construction worker was killed almost every week, a 40 percent rise from 2015.

Last week a 26-year-old construction worker, Tha’ir Abu Sneineh from the Israeli Arab town of Jaljulya, was killed at a site near Bat Yam’s Tayo Beach. But afterward no stop-work order was issued.

The Coalition Against Construction Accidents was told that the site was not an official site because the contractor had never reported the project, as required by law, to the Social Affairs Ministry’s Workplace Safety Administration. Thus the administration sent an inspector to the site after the accident but could do no more.

“The explanation that stop-work orders aren’t issued because the site isn’t official is unreasonable and against the law,” attorney Gadeer Nicola from Kav La’oved said. “The law is clear. As soon as the administration’s inspector is made aware of a serious or fatal accident, he must issue an order to close the site.”

Last week Nicola asked the Workplace Safety Administration to issue a clear directive to close any site where such an accident occurs, including unofficial sites.

In Nazareth, a building site remained open after a fatal accident the electrocution of Mohammed Hamuda, 27. The reason – the Workplace Safety Administration was unable to find the contractor.

According to the law, which was passed in August, the municipality is responsible for cooperating with the Workplace Safety Administration to shut down sites where accidents occur, but in Nazareth no such cooperation was forthcoming.

In a third workplace accident this month, during the expansion of an Eilat synagogue, a worker was severely injured when he fell from scaffolding. In that case too, the site was not closed down.

MK Eyal Ben-Reuven (Zionist Union) initiated the new law along with MKs Eli Alalouf (Kulanu) and Abd al-Hakim Hajj Yahya (Joint List).

“Three such serious accidents at construction sites show that we’re very far from dealing reasonably with this terrible phenomenon,” Ben-Reuven said.

For its part, the Social Affairs Ministry said safety administration inspectors “quickly undertake inspection and enforcement in all serious work accidents.”

“For example, in the case mentioned in Nazareth, the inspector went out on Saturday to investigate the circumstances,” the ministry said in a statement.

According to the ministry, the new law clearly distinguishes between an official and unofficial construction site. “In the case of an unofficial site, the obligation to close is that of the contractor, and if he ignores his obligation this will be to his detriment in the criminal proceedings he will face as a result of an accident,” it said.