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800-kg steel sheet falls at construction site killing worker

20 Comments

A 61-year-old worker was killed after he was hit by a falling steel sheet at a construction site in the western part of Tokyo, police said Wednesday.

According to police, the accident occurred on Tuesday morning. TV Asahi reported that an excavator was attempting to lift the 800-kilogram steel sheet that was 3 meters wide and 1.5 meters wide when suddenly a wire binding snapped and it fell, pinning the worker, Michiyoshi Hirai.

Hirai was taken to hospital where he died a short time later.

Police said the excavator being used to lift the steel sheet was only capable of handling a 400-kg load.

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20 Comments
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Again?? The companies that try to cut corners and pull this kind of crap should be forced into bankruptcies and their owners jailed. How often do we hear about these kind of accidents? WHY was an excavator with a 400 kg load limit lifting 800 kgs? RIP to Mr. Hirai.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Dept of labor....where are you?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Can they man's family sue the company for not using standard or appropriate equipment?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Unfortunately, I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot more of these kinds of accidents in the construction rush leading up to 2020... there just aren't enough ethical companies or experienced workers to go around.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@quercetum Yes, they could. However, you might want to look into the amount of the bond required for a plaintiff to pursue a civil suit (a percentage of the damages demanded), which discourages frivolous lawsuits but also discourages the poor from suing companies in such cases. Then there's the lawyer and court fees and the time required for making multiple court appearances, often over a very long time, indeed. I've known relatively straightforward civil suits to go on for years.

My guess would be that if a guy still has to work in construction at the age of 61, his family is unlikely to be rich, or even comfortably well off. They might well be unable to afford a lawsuit.

Experience suggests to me that they may be able to get a certain amount of consolation money from the company, or more likely from the company's insurer, but that they'll more than likely have to be satisfied with considerably less than they might have gotten from a suit, assuming they could afford one.

Here's an example of why out-of-court settlements are often preferred: http://www.nytimes.com/1987/09/01/world/tokyo-journal-to-be-sorely-tried-try-filing-a-lawsuit-in-japan.html

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Sorry to say, but this sounds like the fault of the workers unless they were ordered to do so. I worked in the construction industry for many years and it's one of the most deadly but standards and training in Japan need to be improved especially the wearing of protective clothing, which wouldn't have helped in this tragic accident.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

@zichi You may well be right about the immediate/direct fault. I haven't worked in the construction industry in Japan, but friends have, and many of the tales I've heard from them indicate entirely too little trained supervision and entirely too much reliance on senpai for direction when setting up and performing tasks.

In a situation where getting the job done quickly has a higher priority than safety, that can lead to deadly accidents. On the other hand, I've gotten the impression that the shortage of well-trained supervisors may well be the company's fault, trying to cut costs by having fewer expensive people managing more cheaper people That's not to say that there aren't supervisors on some sites actively encouraging their subordinates--some of whom are poorly trained and lack experience--to take risks in the name of cutting costs.

I could imagine either scenario leading to workers to use inadequate equipment: 1) insufficiently supervised workers not checking the load rating because they don't know they should and/or their senpai says it's fine, 2) supervisor who knows better taking the risk rather than spending extra time/money on getting proper gear.

Of course, indirectly either could be said to be the company's responsibility for not providing sufficient training and supervision.

As you imply in the "unless they were ordered to do so", in this case a lot depends on who made the decision to use that equipment.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Using an excavator as a crane.

Overloading the lifting limit

Using a sling that was not rated to carry the weight

Lifting over a person.

Idiots!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Diggers big holes, cranes lift, diggers are not supposes to lift thing especially when there twice as heavy as its lifting capability, so,has the firms director been arrested yet for this guys manslaughter/death? his widow should get a lot of compansation for this c**k up.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

, I've gotten the impression that the shortage of well-trained supervisors may well be the company's fault, trying to cut costs by having fewer expensive people managing more cheaper people

The main problem I figure from being married to a site manager is they are expected to do too many tasks (tons of reports, meetings, supervise multiply sites) and the customer is constantly asking them to shorten the construction time by weeks or even months. Work 6-11 7-days a week for two months is not uncommon. All this for barely more than a Eikawa salary.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@justbcuzisay Having one (or in any case too few) people responsible for doing too much work, especially over multiple sites, and imposing burnout-causing schedules on them, instead of hiring more people to spread the work out manageably, is a recipe for this kind of tragic accident, or worse.

Adding strong pressure to get the job done faster is likely to make the situation worse in many ways, including taking shortcuts on safety and letting the workers work without adequate supervision, even if not actually ordering them to to cut corners. There's a lot of blame to go around.

I hope your spouse stays safe, avoids burnout, and isn't involved even peripherally in any accidents.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

this seems to be happening more often and it will probably pick up with the rush to build for the Olympics

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Linking the insurance costs to accidents and having a dedicated Health and safety officer, ear plugs, steel shoes encourage a culture of safety first....might help save lives. Woooo I just realised its a cultural thing!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@balefire - thanks for the kind words. These articles really hit close to home, you summarized the point I was trying to make perfectly. But in the world of 'customer is king' and company is your god, it is impossible to convince a salaryman that you are anything more than 'a foreigner that doesn't understand Japanese work ethic'

Thoughts out to the family of this man who was taken from his family, I hope at least it is not in vain and we start to see some change in the industry. (fingers crossed)

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@justbcuzisay

@balefire - thanks for the kind words. These articles really hit close to home, you summarized the point I was trying to make perfectly. But in the world of 'customer is king' and company is your god, it is impossible to convince a salaryman that you are anything more than 'a foreigner that doesn't understand Japanese work ethic'

My son worked "part-time" (just after leaving school and before going to university in France) in a job which consisted (in his case) in setting up electric wiring... Had I known, at the time, that he was 15 metres "up in the air" and that he had decided his "safety belt" got in the way, he'd never have gone back to work there... Thank heavens he left for France before he had had<> the time to have an accident... (Just goes to show ANYBODY can be hired to do these jobs - even young school leavers...)

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Anzen Daiichi at its worst!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@justbcuzisay You're welcome; I mean it quite sincerely. I sympathize with your plight, too. This foreigner spent over 30+ years working as a salaryman in a major Japanese company. I'm well aware of the (often admirable) Japanese work ethic, and understand both it and also the way in which it is cynically exploited by some (not all) managers/executives, who are too often ready to sacrifice worker safety and health for profit.

To be fair, I'd bet that your among your spouse's headaches are workers who don't follow the rules even when they are aware of them, and the--probably overworked--supervisor isn't able to watch everyone, all the time, no matter how diligent he may try to be.

@FightingViking I'm glad that your son avoided injury, but disconnecting his safety belt because it got in the way was obviously a problem both in his taking a dangerous chance and in his supervisor not noticing or perhaps tacitly approving it by not enforcing the rule. As for anyone being hired, these days there's a shortage of construction workers, and I expect that we will be seeing more and more of this type of accident, as BrobaconZ suggests.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

My condolences to this man. He was likely not too far from retirement, looking at the story. Terrible way to go, and my heart goes out to his family.

However, everyone saying Japan needs to do this, or Japan needs to do that, obviously has no experience in the construction industry. I've worked in my native country in construction, and this kind of dangerous activity is all part of the job. I remember guys racing "cherry-pickers" (elevated work platforms on wheels), and then getting snippy at the boss who told them to cut it out. I remember people carefully manoeuvreing steel ladders around electrical wires. I remember guys taking shots at each other with nail guns. Just a few months ago, a worker here (in my own country, a "highly developed" western country"), dropped a 2000 kg block of stone ONTO THE PAVEMENT killing an innocent pedestrian as he was walking to work who had nothing to do with the construction work. No charges were laid, as far I as I can tell. Japan has issues, yes, but this problem seems to be far less prevalent in Japan than elsewhere.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

****A wire binding is not part of the escavator! If the escavator was incapable of lifting the wait, a sensor would have not permited the lift! What was the escavator model?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

We do not expect such basic violations of not respecting the load capacities to occur in a disciplined country like Japan. It is an eye opener to the world irrespective of the safety standards, safety is to be practiced with daily learning.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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