” NIHONMATSU, Fukushima Prefecture–A company has admitted to not giving the required special training to workers before dispatching them to carry out decontamination work in radiation-hit Fukushima city.
A subcontractor called “Zerutech Tohoku” issued at least 100 bogus certificates to its workers showing they had completed the training, when, in fact, they had done nothing, according to the Fukushima Labor Standards Inspection Office.
The office had warned the subcontractor, which is based in Nihonmatsu and decontaminates parts of nearby Fukushima city, which was affected by the 2011 nuclear disaster, that it should give special training to workers to prepare them for the task.
The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare requires decontamination operators be given at least 5.5 hours of special training to each individual in accordance with the Industrial Safety and Health Law.
The training includes a lecture on potential health hazards and how to operate decontamination equipment as their job involves handling soil polluted by radioactive materials.
The 52-year-old representative of the company admitted wrongdoing in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun.s
“We had to hire a large number of workers over a short period of time since we received a contract involving a vast swath of land,” he said of the false certificates, of which between 100 and 150 have been discovered.
In addition, the company, a fourth-tier subcontractor, issued seven other kinds of certificates needed to operate an aerial vehicle or chain saw, which were required to land the cleanup contract.
For issuing false certificates, offenders could be imprisoned for up to six months or fined 500,000 yen ($4,800).
But the law has been criticized for having numerous loopholes.
One is that there is no test of workers’ knowledge after they have received the training.
The operators are also not required to register the certificates with municipal authorities.
And it is not specified what qualifications are required for the person who conducts the training.
The Labor Standards office, a regional arm of the health ministry, has been inspecting the company for breaches of the law and regulations on decontamination work since Oct. 19.
The Zerutech Tohoku representative founded the company in March last year. ”
by Masakazu Honda and Yuki Chai