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Workers first...

February 17, 2015

TEPCO vows safety first in training program for workers at Fukushima



Workers first...

Tokyo Electric Power Co. submitted its plan to provide wide-ranging training programs for workers engaged in decommissioning of its crippled nuclear power plant in Fukuskima Prefecture following a string of accidents, some of them fatal.

"We will promote safety awareness among contractors through communication in the management of daily operations," said a report by the operator of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

"Our operational coordination meetings will also properly arrange work areas and times to ensure thorough safety control," the report went on.

The number of serious work-related accidents at the facility, which experienced a triple meltdown as a result of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, doubled in 2014 from the previous year.

Nine serious accidents occurred between March 2014 and January 2015, resulting in two deaths and eight serious injuries.

The labor ministry ordered TEPCO to develop measures to prevent similar incidents following the death of a 55-year-old worker in January after he fell from the roof of a rainwater storage tank.

The power utility submitted the plans on Feb. 16 to the labor ministry and the Fukushima Labor Bureau outlining countermeasures against occupational injuries and deaths. The report attributed the accidents to tight schedules and a lack of experience at the plant among recruited workers.

At a news conference the same day, a TEPCO official vowed that the utility would proceed with decommissioning the reactors with the highest priority on safety, saying, "We will ascertain (the pressure on the workers imposed by tight deadlines) by enhancing communication."

The installation of additional storage tanks for radioactive water, as well as other equipment, has added to the workload of TEPCO employees and contractors, raising the proportion of unskilled workers at the site. The power utility thus said in its report that it would set up a special facility to provide hands-on training to such workers.

"We have to prevent a situation in which workers feel it is no longer safe to work at the Fukushima plant," a TEPCO official said.

The plant operator also intends to accelerate decommissioning and improve efficiency of other operations so employees will be able to work longer at the plant site before reaching the annual radiation exposure limit of 50 millisieverts.

(This article was written by Yu Kotsubo and Akifumi Nagahashi.)

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