By Hanna Zohar

2013 was a record year for the growing number of workers injured in the construction industry

The former Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Labor, or the new Ministry of Economy, has never enforced the regulation requiring employers to report workplace injuries.

A total of 900 people were injured in the building industry through end of November 2013. This is 14% more than the number injured in 2012 according to a report requested by the Special Committee for Public Petitions and published by the The Knesset Research and Information Center in preparation for recent deliberations regarding work accidents in the construction industry. The report points out that it is not possible to determine the exact number of injuries. The numbers presented in the document are based on accidents reported to the National Insurance Institute for the purpose of submitting claims.  Given this, one can estimate that the number of injuries is actually higher.

Workplace security regulations require employers to report all injuries for which the worker was given at least three days of sick leave to the Administration of Occupational Safety and Health at the Ministry of Finance. Full reporting of workplace injury is necessary for effective monitoring in order to survey and research the type and seriousness of injuries. This will lead to better security measures designed to lower the number of work injuries. In addition, the submission of full reports can help provide effective enforcement through identification of workplace locations where injuries occur repeatedly.

Despite the advantages that would be provided by full reporting, it is not happening. The former Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Employment, today, the Ministry of Economy, has not enforced the regulation despite that they have in the authority to punish those who violate its provisions.  In June 2013, Kav LaOved turned to the Finance Ministry – the authority responsible for freedom of information – to inquire if any mechanisms have been put in place to deal with employers who did not report work accidents in 2011-2012.  The answer was no. This response confirms the suspicion that not enough has been done to overcome this serious problem.

During 2011 the number fatal work accidents in the construction industry reached 38.  Following a series of news media reports, a number of deliberations were held in the “Special Committee for the Problem of Foreign Workers” of the Knesset.  Representatives of the involved authorities participated including the Authority of Security and Health in Employment of the Finance Ministry, the Israel Police Department of Investigation, the Advocate General, and Registrar of Contractors.  Many of the representatives expressed sincere concern about the inability of the government to manage the problem.

The government response to the steps needed as expressed by experts who participated in the deliberation was the announcement of the appointment of the Public Committee Work Safety and Occupational Health to be headed by retired Maj.Gen. (ret.) Udi Adam. In the final deliberations the committee decided that a report of conclusions and recommendations would be published at the end of 2012. Another year of incompetence has passed. The conclusions and recommendations have not been published. The number of injured continues to rise.

Two years have passed without activity. The time has come for the public committee to publish the conclusions and recommendations and immediate carry out the regulations for oversight of workplace security, first and foremost, the thorough reporting of workplace injuries.  Without full reporting there is no reason to establish the authority.

The author is the founder of Kav LaOved and Coordinator for Israeli and Palestinian Workers

The article was published in Hebrew in The Marker.

Translation: Sharon Kerpel