Two shining silver Volkswagen vans are taking to the country’s farms to provide
interactive, on-board occupational health and safety training for those who till
the nation’s land.
The vans are the latest phase in a mobile training
first began by the Israel Institute for Occupational Safety and Hygiene about
two decades ago, when the organization started bringing teaching services to
industrial sites. While the institute deployed its newest large-sized teaching
truck for industrial and construction sites about three or four years ago, the
agricultural sector is new territory for the group.
“To reach the
agricultural site you need a smaller car,” Andre Matyas, IIOSH head of public
relations, told The Jerusalem Post from inside one of the vans on Monday, at a
convention center in Ramat Efal. “The driver is also an instructor – he is an
agricultural occupational safety and health expert.”
Inside the van, a
mounted LCD monitor as well as a pullout touchscreen are harnessed to the right
wall of the vehicle, in front of a cushioned bench and chair for about four
On the touchscreen, farm workers can play a Who Wants to Be a
Millionaire-style game, in which they view various agricultural hazards and need
to answer what they should do in response.
To account for the diversity
of Israel’s agricultural workers, the game is available in Arabic and Thai in
addition to the Hebrew version. Should the Eritrean population and others from
Africa continue to grow as a presence on the country’s farms, then the institute
will add their languages too, according to Matyas.
Following their gaming
experience, the workers receive a live lesson from the driverteacher about
various types of safety equipment that sits in three glass cases toward the
front of the van – like breathing masks, face shields, eyewashers and harnesses
for climbing trees safely. The instructions accompanying the equipment are,
again, in Hebrew, Arabic and Thai.
The entire training takes about an
hour, and can serve up to three or four workers at once, Matyas
The vans have already been traveling around in the North and
South for about a month as part of a pilot stage, and have been able to serve
several hundred workers, he said. This is the first project of its kind to reach
the agricultural sector in the entire world, Matyas said.
In one year,
the vans will be able to reach 1,000 farming sites and instruct 10,000 people,
explained Nahum Tir, IIOSH head of projects, at a ceremony adjacent to the vans
in honor of their launch. Already, 50,000 workers have received lessons in the
larger industrial trucks that have been running for the past few years, added
Daniel Hadad, CEO of the institute.
Funding for the project comes
entirely from Keren Manof, a foundation run by the National Insurance
National Insurance Institute director-general Prof. Shlomo
Mor-Yosef said that just like doctors work to prevent diseases before they
happen, this type of on-site agricultural training program will allow farmers to
prevent dangerous accidents.
Praising the institute’s initiative,
Agriculture Minister Orit Noked likewise agreed that in order to prevent the
number of accidents occurring, the government must continue to take this sort of
action. Doing so will also improve Israel’s status as a member of the OECD, she
Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon announced at the
ceremony that he had just that morning gotten the Finance Ministry to agree to a
new NIS 1 million grant to the IIOSH – a surprise to all the institute
executives at the launch. Providing additional funds to the institute would help
keep Israel’s public services among the most advanced in the world, he
Meanwhile, in regard to the agricultural training vans, Simhon
noted how much grief and money will be saved through accident
“We need to put in a big effort in order to reduce the number
of accidents,” Simhon added.
Thus far, according to driver-teacher Asaf
Cohen, the pilot is proving successful, and the workers seem to be enjoying
learning through the touchscreen game, he said. Almost all of them have been
answering the questions correctly, and the groups end up competing with other
friends who visit the van both before and after. A worker does not receive a
monetary reward for winning the game, Cohen told the Post, stressing that “his
prize is his life.”