Unfulfilled Safety Agreements Trigger Alarm in Construction Sector

Jul 22, 2023

The rising number of accidents and fatalities in the construction industry has led to increased calls for attention and action from authorities. Issac Moyal, Chairman of the Construction and Associated Industries Union, has recently penned a strongly worded letter to Hezi Schwartzman, the head of the Occupational Safety and Health Directorate and Chief Labor Inspector at the Ministry of Labor, citing unfulfilled agreements made four years ago and urging immediate action.

In 2019, a tripartite agreement was reached between the Histadrut (General Federation of Labor in Israel), Haim Katz, the then Minister of Labor and Welfare, Yoav Galant, the then Minister of Construction and Housing, and Moshe Kahlon, the then Minister of Finance. The agreement detailed 12 operative steps designed to curb the increasing instances of workplace accidents and fatalities. However, despite the agreement, not much has changed in the past four years, leading to Moyal’s pressing appeal.

Moyal’s letter states: “We are about four years after signing the ministerial document and the state has not yet fulfilled its obligations. The safety situation in the construction industry is worrying.” He pointed to the fact that in 2022 alone, there were 23 fatalities in work accidents in the construction industry, a number which showed signs of increasing in the first quarter of 2023.

Worldwide studies were also cited in the letter, asserting that mandatory safety training has a substantial impact on reducing accidents in the construction industry. Countries like the USA, Canada, Great Britain, and Australia, who have made safety training mandatory, have since seen a significant decrease in fatalities.

Moyal acknowledged the efforts by the Boni Ha’aretz contractors’ association, the Construction Workers’ Union and Associated Industries, and the Foundation for the Encouragement and Development of Construction in Israel. Despite the government’s inaction, these bodies have undertaken preventive measures, including the activation of thousands of practical safety training sessions for workers.

However, Moyal emphasized that the burden of safety training should not lie solely with the Foundation for the Encouragement and Development of the Construction Industry. He demanded that the state must fulfill its obligation to implement all agreements from the ministerial document, terming it a matter of human rights.

Moyal also urged the Minister of Labor and the Minister of Economy to allocate budgets for safety training, particularly for Palestinian workers. His appeal ends with an expectation that the government will respond favorably to his requests, thereby contributing to the fight against work accidents at construction sites. The hope now lies with these authorities to fulfill their commitments, invest in mandatory safety training, and put a stop to the increasing number of construction industry casualties.

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