The Israel Builders Association halted work across the country for four hours Thursday in light of the soaring numbers of construction workers killed on the job.
The association said the stoppage between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. was not a strike, but rather an opportunity for employers to refresh safety procedures, hold training sessions and improve safety conditions at construction sites.
Association head Raul Srugo said work accidents “are not inevitable, and we must do all we can to fight the phenomenon.”
He said the organization would work “to instill a different organizational ethic, which advances the highest standards of work safety.”
Thirty-eight people were killed on construction sites in 2018, leading to a government commitment last year to increase safety standards.
But the rate of death in 2019 has only risen, with 20 workers killed since the start of the year, compared to 14 at the same time last year.
On Sunday four workers were killed in a crane collapse in the town of Yavne. Four people have been placed under house arrest as police launched an investigation into the collapse.
The incident brought renewed attention to the issue of worker safety, with politicians, activists and others issuing urgent calls for reforms in the industry and better safety standards and enforcement.
On Monday afternoon, the Histadrut labor federation convened an urgent meeting chaired by the federation’s head, Arnon Bar-David, to discuss steps to combat workplace deaths. Attendees included representatives of trade associations and labor unions linked to the construction industry.
The group announced four new measures: the founding of a joint workplace safety headquarters to be financed by labor unions and the construction industry that would focus on education and accident prevention at work sites; Thursday’s half-day work stoppage; an emergency conference for companies and unions in early June; and a change to the content of all professional conferences in the industry for the duration of 2019 to ensure they focused on workplace safety.
Last year, a general strike was averted at the last moment after the Histadrut reached a deal with the government to improve safety conditions for construction workers. The focus of the planned strike had been the lack of safety regulations at building sites, following the deaths of several dozen workers.
The new measures adopted last year included making the European standard for scaffolding obligatory, heightened regulations surrounding crane operation, and increasing the number of inspectors.