A 40-year-old Palestinian construction worker, Mohammed Shihadeh Agrieb, from Tarkumya in the Occupied Palestinian Territories was killed Sunday, August 4, in the city of Hod HaSharon in central Israel.
Agrieb’s death brought the total number of fatal workplace accidents since the beginning of 2019 to 51, 29 of them in construction sites. The most recent worksite death before Sunday’s accident occurred last Thursday, August 1, when a 35-year-old Palestinian construction worker, Yiab Al-Jamal, was killed in a worksite accident in the Lower Galilee.
In June, figures released under Israel’s freedom-of-information law showed that police have not opened criminal investigations in 75 percent of the workplace accidents that led to the death or severe injury of workers for the three years from 2016 to 2018.
Police records reveal that of the 850 workplace accidents in which police were called in during those years, criminal probes were opened for only 212. Kav LaOved, an advocacy group for workers, filed the freedom-of-information request that made the figures public.
According to statistics compiled by Kav LaOved (Worker’s Hotline), from 2016 to 2018, 124 workers were killed in 118 fatal workplace accidents, and another 585 accidents resulted in moderate to serious injuries. Nearly all these accidents occurred at construction sites.
The fact that only a quarter of serious workplace accidents are being investigated for criminal culpability means that “the Israel Police apparently believes that most workplace accidents are ‘fate,’ or the fault of the dead and injured,” said Attorney Gadeer Nicola, head of Kav LaOved’s Nazareth branch.
Earlier last month, Kav LaOved published a report that analyzes 850 safety violation orders issued by authorities at construction sites during the first half of 2019. The report lists the leading construction companies found to be guilty of neglecting worker safety. At the top of the list of notorious companies is “Assum,” which was issued 14 violations orders during the first six months of this year. The company “Neot Shamir S.” comes in as a close second with 11 recorded infractions. Third, with 9 safety violations, is “A.D. Asher Zaguri Construction Works.” The companies “Mahamid Taufik – Building and Development Company,” “Itzhak Stern & Co.,” and “Ashtrom. Group” also figure prominently in the list of companies found to be scandalously neglecting worker safety.
The Kav LaOved report details the violations that led to the infraction orders issued by authorities and the mandatory steps imposed on the violators to enforce safety regulations and adhere to safety standards.