Conference on Safety in the Construction industry: “Its My Right to come back home Safely!”

<p>This first of its kind national conference took place through the initiative of WAC-Maan, on Saturday, July 23rd, to discuss the topic of safety in the workplace. The main message of the conference to 160 participants from the field of construction and their wives was that workplace accidents are not an edict from Heaven. There is no accident that cannot be prevented. The goal of the conference was to shake the public in view of shocking numbers: 30 yearly deaths of construction workers, most of them Arabs or migrant workers, and the injuring of above 6,200.</p>

WAC Maan – the independent trade union organized the onference in Nazareth, at the Rimonim Hotel, on the 23rd of July, 2011

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The conference opened with a moment of silence in memory of workers who were killed in workplace accidents

This first of its kind national conference took place through the initiative of WAC-Maan, on Saturday, July 23rd, to discuss the topic of safety in the workplace. The main message of the conference to 160 participants from the field of construction and their wives was that workplace accidents are not an edict from Heaven. There is no accident that cannot be prevented. The goal of the conference was to shake the public in view of shocking numbers: 30 yearly deaths of construction workers, most of them Arabs or migrant workers, and the injuring of above 6,200.

The conference opened with a moment of silence in memory of workers who were killed in workplace accidents. The safety organizer at WAC, Asma Aghbarieh Zahalka, presented the project she has been running for the past year, whose goal is to increase awareness about workplace safety laws among construction workers; this project has been subsidized by Manof, a fund of the National Insurance. Some 300 workers and 600 school pupils benefited from workshops led by WAC’s staff and by Mr. Hassan Shuli a safety appointee.

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From left – Faez Shteiwi, Prof. Yechiel Rosenfeld, Varda Eduards, Saber Kilani, Asma Agbarieh Zahalka

“In light of the problem of transferring work over to many subcontractors in order to limit the responsibility of big companies towards their workers, we should demand” said Agbarieh-Zahalka, “an increase of the responsibility of the Ministry of Trade and Labour to apply the safety rules, and to combine this with an increase in awareness of these regulations among the workers”. She also stressed the role of the workers’ wives in putting pressure on their husbands to pay attention to the rules. At the end of the day they are the ones who will be affected emotionally and financially by the unnecessary murder or serious injury of the worker.”

Faez Shteiwi, owner of the newspaper “Kol El Arab,” who lost his brother, Nader (who died at 58 years old) two weeks before in a construction accident, spoke for the bereaved families. Shteiwi said: “I have always covered these accidents. This is the first time I am in the shoes of the bereaved. I also thought that it wouldn’t happen to me. When I say that my brother Nader could have prevented the accident if he had done such and such… people say to me, you are a heretic, it was fate. Until today I do not know how he died. He was found dead at the foot of the building with no protective gear that could have prevented his death. If you are a construction worker, you must think one hundred times about how you can return home safely. There is nothing worth risking your life for, no matter how difficult your circumstances.”

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