Three construction workers were killed within five hours on Thursday, August 17, at three different building sites in Israel. A 16-year-old laborer, Hussein Amarah, was killed when scaffolding upon which several workers were sitting collapsed and fell at a site on Silver Street in the northern city of Nahariya. A second worker, a 29-year-old man, was hospitalized in serious condition, and a third was lightly injured in the same accident.
Earlier in the day, a 40-year-old Chinese worker, Dong Wan Ching, was killed when he fell from a high floor in a construction site in Rosh Ha’ayin. A third construction worker, Muhammad Mahajna, 44, was hit by a tractor he was directing at a building site near Herzlyia. The three deaths on Thursday bring the number of construction workers killed in Israel in 2017 to 21 so far, according to the Group against Building Accidents.
Hadash activists in Tel Aviv held several demonstrations on Friday in front of major constructions sites in the city. They distributed a leaflet in Hebrew and Arabic on construction security regulations. MK Dov Khenin (Hadash – Joint List) and the head of Hadash faction in the Histadrut, Dkhil Hamed, were among the protesters.
The rate of worker deaths in Israel is among the highest in the advanced capitalist states and double the European Union average, according to the findings of an Economy Ministry and National Insurance Institute report published in May 2016.
Last September, six construction workers were killed when a four-story parking garage being built in the northern Tel Aviv neighborhood of Ramat Hahayal collapsed. Following the fatal accident, Hadash lawmakers renewed calls to improve safety standards on construction sites and set up a parliamentary inquiry into construction workers’ deaths.
While accidents on building sites are common in Israel, most of those employed in construction in the country are Palestinian from the occupied territories, Arab-Palestinians from Israel or foreign workers, mostly Chinese, and the issue is rarely at the center of the public consciousness.
Only half of all deaths at construction sites between 2011 and 2015 were investigated, according to research carried out by the Knesset Research and Information Center, and in over 50 percent of those cases probes were closed due to inconclusive evidence, Israel Radio reported last September.
According to the report, the low rate of investigations stems from a lack of coordination between the three responsible authorities: the Safety Administration, the State Prosecution and the police. In a number of cases included in the report, some of the authorities were only informed of an accident six months after it took place.