JAPAN | Wife to seek work accident compensation over Fukushima plant worker’s death

Posted on July 12, 2011

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JAPAN | MAINICHI | 12 July 2011

Nobukatsu Osumi's bereaved wife holds up his photo in Omaezaki, Shizuoka Prefecture. (Mainichi)

Nobukatsu Osumi’s bereaved wife holds up his photo in Omaezaki, Shizuoka Prefecture. (Mainichi)

The wife of a man who died from a heart attack while working at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant plans to seek recognition of his death as a workplace accident, it has been learned.

The 60-year-old worker, Nobukatsu Osumi, a plumber from the Shizuoka Prefecture city of Omaezaki, died on May 14, after being dispatched to the nuclear power plant from a company cooperating with Toshiba Corp. to help bring the nuclear crisis under control.

Osumi’s 53-year-old wife, a Thai national, plans to file to have his death recognized as a workplace accident eligible for compensation at the Yokohama Minami Labor Standards Inspection Office, which deals with Toshiba’s workplace accident insurance, as early as this week.

Toshiba and other sources said that Osumi had experience working at the Hamaoka and Shimane nuclear power plants in the past. From Toshiba’s perspective he was a temporary employee for a construction company designated as a fourth-level subcontractor.

In a shift between 6 and 9 a.m. from May 13, Osumi was involved in work that included laying pipes for a facility to treat waste at the plant. At about 6:50 a.m. the following day, while he was carrying a special saw, he complained that he felt unwell. He was eventually taken to a hospital in the Fukushima Prefecture city of Iwaki, but shortly after 9:30 a.m. he was confirmed dead as the result of a heart attack.

During the course of his work at the plant he received only a small radiation dosage of 0.68 millisieverts, and it was judged his health was not affected by exposure to radiation. However, it was pointed out that there were deficiencies in the emergency care system for workers, as it took more than two hours for Osumi to reach hospital from the time that he complained of feeling ill. Since Osumi’s death, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the nuclear power plant’s operator, has placed a doctor on standby for workers.

Neither Toshiba nor TEPCO have paid consolatory money or other compensation to Osumi’s wife. Her lawyer has criticized their treatment as “cold.”

“Mr. Osumi was working in a harsh environment wearing a mask and protective clothing. Their treatment of this worker, who was putting his life on the line in his work, is too cold.”

A TEPCO representative said the company did not believe there was a strong connection between the work and Osumi’s death. Toshiba’s public relations office, meanwhile, commented, “The relationship between the work and the heart attack is unclear, and at this stage we cannot judge whether or not it was a workplace accident.”

Noboru Yanagisawa, an emeritus professor in labor law at Yamaguchi University, said that workplace accident compensation should be granted to Osumi’s case.

“With workplace accidents, problems emerge over the acknowledgement of whether psychological and mental ailments occurred in the course of the person’s work or not, but work environments that grossly lack life-saving measures are also taken into consideration. It is difficult to determine whether the heart attack occurred due to the work this time, but it is clear that there were delays in life-saving measures, and this case should be recognized as a workplace accident.”

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