Tepco resumes work after contractor deaths

03 February 2015

Operations have resumed at all three of Tokyo Electric Power Company's (Tepco's) nuclear power plants in Japan following the deaths of two contractors last month in industrial accidents. The company has introduced measures to improve worker safety at its sites.

On 19 January, a worker at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant died after falling about 10 metres into an empty rainwater collection tank. The following day, another contractor died after being hit on the head by a piece of heavy equipment in a waste treatment facility at the Fukushima Daini plant.

"For the employees at the site, there appears to be strong pressure to meet the deadline for their work, but what we have to continuously do is put safety first,"

Takafumi Anegawa
Director of Tepco's nuclear division

The company called a work stoppage at the two plants, as well as its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, for inspections and to reassess safety practices.

Tepco said that operations resumed on 26 January at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, which is preparing to restart, and on 28 January at the Fukushima Daini plant, which is being maintained in cold shutdown. Work at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant, where some 7000 people work every day, resumed today.

The work schedule for some decommissioning work at Fukushima Daiichi "may need to be adjusted by two weeks to a month" due to the work stoppage, the company said. "The details of the specific work to be affected will be determined in due course, according to the schedules and stages of each process," it noted.

Tepco acknowledged shortcomings in its efforts to prevent industrial accidents at its sites. It said there had been a "lack of continuous safety enhancement activity, such as listing up danger zones and eliminating them." The company also noted that, "because of strong pressure to comply with the schedule, accident recurrence prevention activity was not thorough, and the range of inspection and measures was restricted."

Tepco said it has introduced measures to improve safety at all three of its nuclear power plants. These include increased training on accident prevention, increased emphasis on the priority of safety over schedules, and a commitment to have senior executives patrol the facilities to identify risks and personally convey the "safety first" message.

The head of Tepco's nuclear division Takafumi Anegawa said he will personally direct the implementation of further safety improvements. "For the employees at the site, there appears to be strong pressure to meet the deadline for their work, but what we have to continuously do is put safety first," he said.

Anegawa said that Tepco will build a system to share past accident details to site members and workers and will set common safety rules to be adhered to by both Tepco and its contractors working at the site.

Tepco chairman Fumio Sudo said, "While industrial accidents may be difficult to entirely eradicate, the loss of life is completely unacceptable." He added, "We convey our sincere sympathy to the families of the workers who lost their lives, and we are committed to doing everything we can to prevent such tragedies from occurring in the future."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News