Six Israeli construction workers died in August, bringing the number of fatalities to 23 in 2017. Last year, there were 49 construction worker deaths, according to Hadas Tagari. Most workplace accidents in Israel are in the construction sector, but lack of safety legislation isn’t the problem.
The rate of construction accidents in Israel is one of the highest in the Western world. It’s more than five times the British average and twice the European average. Portugal and Cyprus were the only two countries to have more injuries and fatalities. Israel took the third-to-last place in the survey.
The Economy Ministry and the National Insurance Institute reported last September that between 2000 and 2015, there were 480 construction accident deaths in Israel.
The five-year average injuries and fatalities have been increasing since 2011. In 2010, the average is 25.4 fatalities per 100,000. In 2015, the average rose to 33.2 per 100,000.
So why are there so many construction accidents and deaths if legislation is not the problem? Those familiar with the problem say the issue is lack of resources. The Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services don’t have sufficient funds to monitor workplace safety properly. The state is sometimes reluctant to prosecute, and the police often fail to investigate reports.
The sheer number of construction accidents is also putting a burden on the economy. More than 24 billion shekels have been paid in compensation since 2010, and the amount of compensation is only increasing every year.
To compound the problem, many workers who are injured or killed on the job are sub-contracted, which means contractors have an easier time avoiding responsibility.
The construction field is one of the most dangerous in the world, and if not enough is being done to combat the problem, it will only continue to get worse. And it’s not just serious injuries from unexpected accidents that are a problem. Construction work is hard on the body. Even injuries like repetitive stress injuries can be a problem.
“Repetitive stress injuries (RSI’s) occur when the repeated motion of muscles, tendons, etc. cause microscopic tears in tissue,” explains attorney Kevin P. Justen (www.justenlaw.com/). Workers can develop this type of injury over time, particularly if they carry out the same tasks every day for extended periods of time.
Ran Cohen, head of the Occupational Safety Division at the Labor, Welfare and Social Services Ministry, told The Jerusalem Post that in 2016, his division issued almost 1,000 safety orders after inspecting 6,000 construction sites. Among those 1,000 orders, 100 of them ordered the complete closure of the construction site due to serious safety issues.
The ministry has been pushing for new laws that impose a heavy fine on a contractor that violates safety regulations. Cohen also told the Post that the ministry is asking local municipalities to be more active in the enforcement and regulation of safety guidelines.
Time will tell if the push for more resources and better enforcement will come to fruition. Despite the high number of accidents and injuries, the ministry currently only employs 18 supervisors that manage 13,000 construction sites across Israel.