10 February 2022, Haaretz Editorial
Two construction workers from East Jerusalem, Ghazi Abu Sabitan and Ahmed Al-Siyad, were killed Wednesday at a large building site in Tel Aviv’s Givat Amal neighborhood. They fell from a height of 42 stories after the scaffolding on which they were standing collapsed under them. Israelis saw pictures of the two young men, and perhaps they felt something, but not enough to disturb their daily routines.
Under the cover of this indifference, workers will continue to fall to their deaths. Since last June, 34 people have died in work accidents in the building and infrastructure industries – an increase of 55 percent over the parallel period of the previous year. The developer of the Tel Aviv site is Tidhar Construction; four workers have died in accidents at the company’s building sites since 2018. A week ago, Deputy Economy Minister Yair Golan visited a different Tidhar site and praised the company’s safety efforts. This praise may turn out to have been premature.
Golan and Economy Minister Orna Barbivai have refused to recognize their own responsibility for the safety lapses in construction and other industries that cause dozens of fatalities every year. Warnings by civil-society organizations about construction workers’ poor safety conditions haven’t gotten any real response. The government prefers embracing the construction companies to taking steps to improve safety. Without penalties, fines and radical change in the approach to safety and accidents, nothing will change.
The necessary changes include Knesset approval of safety regulations at construction sites; the establishment of a national occupational safety and health authority; issuing detailed work plans that include targets for supervision, enforcement and prosecution; filling empty positions and being transparent with information about work accidents. But Barbivai and Golan are in no hurry. And their foot-dragging is exacting a real price in human lives.
On top of these failures, we have the weakness of the Knesset’s Labor, Welfare and Health Committee, the prosecution’s extreme foot-dragging in filing indictments and the weak oversight provided by the registrar of contractors.
Make no mistake about the significance of this multisystem failure. The blood of the dead workers is on the government’s hands.