With 2020's First Death at Israeli Construction Site, Activists Pin Hopes on New Minister

Labor rights activists call on minister to ensure stricter safety regulations after 74-year-old dies in northern city

The convention center in Haifa where a 74-year-old construction worker was killed, Jan. 6, 2020
United Hatzalah/Haifa

A 74-year-old resident of Haifa became the first known work-related fatality of 2020 after he fell off a ladder and sustained head injuries, while doing repairs in a convention hall in the city’s south. He was evacuated to Rambam Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

The Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry announced that the site has been closed in advance of a safety inspection.

The Israel Police are investigating the incident.

Paramedic Eran Goldstein and medic Yigal Goldstein of the Magen David Adom emergency rescue service reported that they were told the man had fallen five meters. They found him on the ground next to the ladder, unconscious, with head injuries and no pulse, and not breathing. They began attempts at resuscitation and took him to the hospital in critical condition.

It may be a new year, said Hadas Tagari, head of a coalition that combats accidents in construction and industry, but the carnage at these sites continues. Tagari noted the appointment of Yifat Shasha-Biton as the new labor minister, adding that she hopes she will take meaningful steps to improve safety in workplaces. These include instituting a hot line for people who wish to complain about safety hazards, tougher financial sanctions against those who violate regulations, and improved supervision of workers to ensure their well-being.

For its part, the Kav L’Oved (Workers Hotline) said the death of people on the job is not some unfortunate mishap: It can be prevented by proper deterrence and enforcement measures, and by establishment of a responsible authority as was recommended in 2014 by the Adam commission, established by the Labor Ministry to review occupational safety legislation.

In 2019 there were 86 deaths resulting from work accidents, according to Kav L’Oved’s annual report – the highest number since 1997 and an increase of 23 percent from 2018. There were 420 work accidents last year in which 352 people were injured, 197 of them moderately to seriously.