Work Accident Deaths in Israel Increased 56% in Last Two Years, Report Shows

Worker's advocacy group says Labor Ministry left a number of accidents out of its report, though the reasons why are unclear

The Ashdod construction site where a 30-year-old worker was crushed to death in an elevator collapse, December 24, 2019.
Ilan Assayag

The number of people killed in fatal work accidents in Israel, in all industries, rose by 56 percent over the past two years, according to a yearly report released by the Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry on Tuesday.

2017 saw 1.26 people per 100,000 overall workers die in construction accidents, and this figure jumped to 1.97 in 2019 – the highest percentage in the past decade. This figure had previously been steadily falling through 2017.

The number of foreign workers who died in construction work accidents rose steeply, while the figures for Israeli workers fell: Today foreign workers die in accidents on construction sites at 2.9 times the rate of Israelis, and Palestinian construction workers die at a rate 2.2 times that of Israelis.

For Israeli workers, the death rate in such accidents is 9.13 per 100,000 (a 15 percent drop in comparison to the previous year), while for Palestinian workers the figure is 20.1. For foreign workers, the figure is 26.3 per 100,000 on construction sites – while for the entire construction industry the average figure rose from 10 in 2018 to 13.1 in 2019.

In spite of the increasing risk, the Labor Ministry has left out a number of fatal accidents, says the coalition to combat construction accidents and the Kav La’Oved – Worker’s Hotline for the Protection of Worker’s Rights. The organizations list 91 fatal construction accidents for 2019, while the ministry’s report includes only 84. The groups say three of the accidents not counted occurred in the West Bank, but they learned of four more accidents from the report that they did not know about before – while the reason the others are missing from the list is still not clear.

Yet these differences do not change the severe overall picture, but instead show that the situation is even worse than the ministry’s report states, says Hadas Tagari, director of the coalition against construction accidents. For the first time, the report includes a ranking of towns with the most fatal construction industry accidents. Over the last three years, about half of these accidents occurred in the center of Israel, and 31 percent in the north. The city of Yavneh had the highest fatality rate per construction site, 3.5 percent, followed by Hod Hasharon, Bnei Brak, Ashkelon and Rosh Ha’ayin. The ministry said it would use these data this year to focus their efforts on cities with the highest fatality rates.

“Workplace safety and health has not received fitting attention for years, with a stress on improving and updating the legal tools available to the regulator, who is required to operate in an environment that has changed dramatically since the middle of the previous century, when the main legal foundation the regulator now relies on was set down,” said the Labor Ministry in the report.