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By Jenny David
Nov. 5—The amount the government spends on prevention is not keeping pace with the gradual rise in workplace accidents, Economy Ministry statistics show, and legislation pending before Israel's parliament aims to narrow the gap, Varda Edwards, director of the Economy Ministry's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, told Bloomberg BNA Oct. 22. Currently, Israel's government spends less than 1 percent of the cost of workplace accidents on their prevention, Edwards said.
According to the report of a government committee headed by Israel Military Industries Chairman Udi Adam, the Israeli economy currently loses 2.5 million workdays and about 10 billion shekels ($2.65 billion) per year to workplace accidents and occupational illnesses. Government spending on workplace safety totals only 85 million shekels ($22.6 million).
First to be considered is an amendment to the Work Safety Ordinance that will increase the economy minister's authority to approve workplace safety regulations that do not violate other basic laws. Long in development, this bill has already been approved by the Justice Ministry and the Ministerial Committee on Legislative Affairs and is expected to be enacted during the parliament's upcoming winter session,
OSHA is also advancing proposed legislation that would increase fines for violation of workplace safety regulations, which “have to be high enough to deter violations, but not so high that they could shut businesses down,” Edwards said.
A more immediate step will require all construction site managers to attend a new course in work safety, including provisions for working at heights. Israeli construction sites are consistently the most dangerous places to work, accounting for about half of all fatal accidents and more than half of all injuries, according to government statistics.
In 2013, 12.6 out of every 100,000 construction workers died in workplace accidents, more than triple the rate in all other industries, and tens of thousands more were injured. The rate is expected to rise as the government works to speed up building starts to address a national housing shortage, Edwards noted.
Israel's work safety numbers compare badly with other western nations, Edwards said, and the nation ranks last in the Economy Ministry's international survey of the ratio of workplace safety inspectors to workers.
Many western countries “have three or five times as many inspectors per capita as Israel,” Edwards said, noting the difficulty of finding qualified engineers to work as inspectors—a job that “often includes conflict with business owners and pays about half what they would earn in the private sector.”
“The bottom line is that we don't invest enough in prevention,” Edwards said, “neither educationally nor in terms of legislation, inspections or sanctions.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Jenny David in Jerusalem at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Vollmar at email@example.com
The Adam Committee report is available in Hebrew at http://graphics-lapam.org.il/clients/calcala/vadat_adam_2/vaadat_adam.html.
For more information on Israeli HR law and regulation, see the Israel primer.
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