Committee approves sanctions on constructions safety violations

Some 12 construction workers died since the beginning of 2017.

June 7, 2017 20:13
2 minute read.
har homa

A crane is seen next to Har Homa in Jerusalem. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee approved on Wednesday an ordinance that will allow fining contractors for safety failures that were found in their construction sites.

The ordinance, which was initiated by Labor and Social Services Minister Haim Katz, also allows the ministry’s inspectors to hold the contractors personally responsible for charges filed against them for violating safety regulations.

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It was decided that the maximum sum of such a fine would be NIS 35,280. CEOs of construction companies that fail to correct safety deficiencies will be fined up to NIS 9,000.

At the Knesset panel, Katz said he views financial punishments as the most efficient ways to deal with this phenomenon.

“We don’t see any other way that could prevent construction accidents,” he said. “Now that [contractors] will have to pay, things will change.”

Katz added that besides imposing fines, his ministry is seeking to add extra inspectors to oversee construction sites and to improve the working conditions.

The ordinance is to come into effect in January 2018, and will not have to go through readings at the Knesset plenum. It will mainly focus on construction gear and maintenance, work at night and operation of cranes.

According to the Coalition Against Construction Accidents, 12 construction workers have died since the beginning of 2017, and 48 died during 2016.

The head of the group, Hadas Tagari, told The Jerusalem Post that approving this measure is a step in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go.

“This ordinance will give the inspectors an additional tool to combat this phenomenon,” she said. “But there is a major lack of manpower; only 19 inspectors are overseeing some 12,000 working sites.”

Tagari added that moving the responsibility for construction inspectors from the Economics Ministry to the Labor and Social Services Ministry, which happened last year, detracted from the efficiency of their oversight.

“We expect minster Katz to use his power, like he does with other issues, to fix the problems that occurred after this move,” she said.

MK Dov Henin (Joint List) said the ordinance is welcomed, but it comes after a long period in which the government neglected the workers. “It has led to dozens of deaths each year,” he said.

Henin added that many steps should be taken to make the oversight really effective, and that the field should receive more funding.

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