Construction Remains the Most Dangerous Sector for Workers in Israel

The construction sector in Israel remains unsafe to its 160,000 construction workers, many of whom are Palestinians and migrant workers. Construction has the largest number of work accidents of all labor market sectors: in 2021, Kav LaOved (KLO) recorded 471 work accidents across all sectors, of which 251 (more than half) were in the construction sector alone. 32 workers died in related-job accidents during the first six months of 2022, most of them construction workers.

Thus, despite the positive developments following 2018’s Histadrut Agreement, signed by Israel’s largest trade union and the Ministry of Labor to improve safety conditions in construction, 52.7% of all fatal work accidents in the country still happen within the construction sector, compared to 22% in the European Union.

Hadash and Communist Party of Israel activists, among them Hadash MK Ofer Cassif (Joint List), protest in south Tel Aviv against the wanton non-enforcement of safety regulations that prevails in the construction industry in Israel, May 2021. (Photo: Zo Haderech)

Before Israel’s State Comptroller issued a critical report on Israel’s construction sector’s safety record, KLO also released a policy brief on the same issue. KLO believes that transparency and access to data regarding safety trends is the first step toward improving occupational safety for all and thus we play an active and key role in tracking and analyzing data on safety trends as a foundation upon which to advocate for change. This role is critical as the information available and collected by the Israeli authorities remains poor and insufficient.
KLO analysis points to several key reforms needed to improve safety in construction, among them: increasing resources, particularly the number of inspectors, available to the Safety Administration to correlate with OECD standards; imposing more financial sanctions, a proven and useful deterrence tool against unsafe work environments and increasing the number of investigations and prosecutions of those violating safety standards.

According KLO, “It is the government’s duty to ensure that deterrence is sufficient to discourage systemic violations of safety requirements and to implement a more effective enforcement system strengthened by better collection of information. Currently, information available to the authorities about work accidents is poor and mostly relies on employers’ reports of accidents. More comprehensive data would offer a much more realistic picture and help to uncover the root causes of work accidents in order to guide policymakers in developing preventative measures. In turn, sufficient enforcement and punishment tools would better deter construction companies from disregarding the lives of workers and prevent future accidents.”