With 621 severely injured and 83 dead, 2023 marked the toughest year in at least five years, setting record highs for fatalities and work related accidents. Compared to the previous year, there was a concerning 33% increase in fatalities, according to a Kav LaOved (a non-profit organization concerned with employees’ rights) safety report for the year 2023. Surprisingly, despite the war halting work in accident-prone industries, many workers died in accidents, specifically during the months of war.
Also, the writers of the report noted that workers expressed an understanding, a reluctant one, that safety measures are primarily their responsibility due to the clear absence in training, protective equipment, and monitoring on the actual worksites. The report detailed that workers purchased personal protective equipment independently, and learned about precaution and safety measures via YouTube videos or by word of mouth.
The report for 2023 found the “safety climate” in Israel’s construction sector is at a low point. Limited awareness, weak sanctions, occupational safety issues, and health policies have led contractors to act irresponsibly.
The report marked a 33% increase in construction sector fatalities compared to the previous year, with work accidents in Israel being 2.5 times higher than the EU average. Administrative safety instructions continue to decrease, and regulations to protect workers are slow to receive approval in government offices. In response, Kav LaOved is advocating for the establishment of a national authority for occupational safety and health to protect millions of workers who need such a body to defend their rights.
At the report’s end, it was claimed that “following the publication of the report, the safety administrator also submitted his annual report, acknowledging the relatively high number of fatalities in work accidents compared to the previous year.”
The lack of agreement between Kav LaOved and the administrator revolves around significant issues requiring intervention, extending beyond the issues of injuries and fatalities. Attorney Diana Baron, manager of Research and Public Policy at Kav LaOved, expressed her concern about the government’s (currently cancelled) decision to close the Israel Institute for Occupational Safety and Hygiene.
Baron, along with the Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, called for preserving the institution’s valuable work. She said that their appeals and lobbying efforts led to the suspension of the closure process. They now hope that there is a way to preserve the Israel Institute for Occupational Safety and Hygiene’s agendas and merge it with a national authority for occupational safety and health that aligns with the Adam Commission’s recommendations.
“In the name of employees who need protection, guarantees for their safety, more research, sanctions on employers who are not following safety rules, legislation, care, and clear guidelines set in place to safeguard them, let us hope that we are finally heading in the right direction,” Baron concluded.
Attorney Eldan Danino, a safety expert in construction and infrastructure, said: “2023 was the most difficult year for fatalities and work accidents in the construction and infrastructure sector.”
Danino criticized both enforcing safety permits and imposing monetary sanctions on companies, or bringing them up on criminal charges, claiming that it is this which undermines the goal of preserving human life and safety. He expected relevant authorities in Israel to realize safety’s importance in 2024, urging collaboration with developers and contractors to promote a shared safety culture and significantly reduce accidents and fatalities in the sector.