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It is now OK for train drivers on JR Central lines to drink water

39 Comments
By KK Miller, RocketNews24

For someone whose job it is to drive a train or a bus full of passengers, the safety of those passengers is paramount. The training these drivers have to go through is pretty intensive and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the list of things they can and cannot do while on the job.

But let’s check a couple of things on this list. Did you know that while a train is stationary, the operator is allowed to take a drink of water? Sounds reasonable. However, did you know that they have to fill out a report every time they do?

Or at least this was the case for the Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central). Previously on these train lines, regulations stated that the train operator was allowed to re-hydrate only while the train was stopped. However, if they did drink water, they had to report it on the comm and when they finished their shift, they had to submit a written report logging the time, where, the reason for doing so and if there were any customer complaints as a result of their sipping water.

That seems like a lot of hassle just to take a sip of high quality H2O. The train staff also seemed to agree as operators for JR Central were ignoring the urge drink and thus were suffering from symptoms of heatstroke. The situation got so dire that trains had to make emergency stops because the driver was feeling unwell. This inconvenienced the passengers even more than a little sip of water might have, as now they were stuck on trains that weren’t moving.

Thankfully, this mandate for a tedious report has been removed for lines operated by JR Central and they are urging their staff to keep themselves hydrated during their shifts. This change in policy comes as a surprise to many people who were perhaps unaware of a drinking water report. Others dismissed it as a symptom of Japanese bureaucracy. Some comments on the Internet:

“Writing a report just for drinking water is annoying.” “They probably don’t want to write a report, so they just endure it.” “I wondered about what they did while the train was moving, but not being able to just drink water while stopped…that’s just sad.” “I’m really surprised that there’s someone who complains that the train driver is drinking water. I can understand if they were smoking or something, but for drinking water?” “I’ve heard they control what you eat the day before and how much you sleep.” “What other reason is there for drinking water besides ‘I’m thirsty’?”

Source: Itai News

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Kansai scraps “power off” mobile phone ban on trains; Kanto won’t budge -- New Shinkansen to Use Revolutionarily Simple Stations, Cuts Include Ticket Booths, Waiting Rooms, Humans -- Commuters surprisingly receptive to JR’s innovative new system

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39 Comments
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This is Japan. Gaman. So sad that workers would feel ill and put their passengers at risk.

17 ( +17 / -0 )

What ridiculous policies and procedures. You'd think they'd be working for the Gestapo.

15 ( +15 / -0 )

I would have thought the bigger problem was putting off urinating.

15 ( +15 / -0 )

Personally, I would have drank water and not filled out a report.

20 ( +19 / -0 )

A.N. Other at Jun. 10, 2015 - 08:05AM JST I would have thought the bigger problem was putting off urinating.

Exactly my thoughts.... When and how do they go to the toilet?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

What ridiculous policies and procedures. You'd think they'd be working for the Gestapo.

Welcome to Japan.inc

11 ( +13 / -2 )

This is probably the most Japanese thing I have read in ages. How could any customer possibly be offended by someone drinking water? Just another case of trying to prevent unrealistic complaints instead of dealing with a complaint if it came in. Surely it would be an easy dispute to resolve.

Customer: I saw the driver taking a sip of water and it made me angry! JR: Our drivers are humans and need to stay hydrated too. Customer: .......

Problem solved.

JR makes well enough money that they can afford to lose one customer who gets his jimmies rustled over an issue like this. Can the customer afford not to use JR? Probably not.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

That's an improvement.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The lack of a comfortable ride (due to overpacking) bothers me somewhat more than a thirsty driver in need of hydration having a drink of water.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

The biggest crash on JR in recent years happened in Amagasaki on the Fukuchiyama line. One of the trains overshot a platform and had to back up. This caused a delay, and to make back the time, the train took a curve near Tsugaike station at high speed, causing a derailment and crash. Over 100 people were killed. It came out that one reason the driver and guard were so desperate to make up the time was that JR had draconian disciplinary procedures that involved punishing staff rather than retraining them.

Things are better now, but some Japanese sports clubs used to have rules like "no drinks for first years" and there is a lingering idea that you're weak if you need a drink. Even now, the first "man-natsu-bi" (midsummer day) when the temp hits 35C is usually accompanied by news of dozens of HS kids going to hospital with heat stroke or sun stroke because they had been running laps as normal in full kit. This is more than likely to be at the behest of dimwitted coaches who think gambaru is everything. Because they are sensei, ordinary parents simply assume it must be the best approach.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Why can't they give them sports bottles with the drinking straws, wouldn't even have to take their eyes of anything.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

A school I used to work at banned students from drinking water outdoors because an old lady complained about their "rudeness".

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Problem is that drinking makes you want to pee, delay a train for a no. 1.

Also their shifts are usually a rotation between 2hrs on and 2hrs off do keep them alert.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

some beer should be probably fine too,that said i hardly take the train anyways

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

A school I used to work at banned students from drinking water outdoors because an old lady complained about their "rudeness".

That same lady was later seen pulling out a snuff box and drinking Pernod.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

This "rule" apparently goes back to the old days of the Japan National Railways when a lot of drivers (particularly immediately after the war) used to juice themselves up on various beverages to put up with the strain caused by the suicides along major railway lines. Just another bit of postwar Japanese history that doesn't fit with the "economic miracle" paradigm.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

It"S ME: Problem is that drinking makes you want to pee, delay a train for a no. 1.

No problem if you retain the bottle, just refill it at the next stop! Ensure it's a widemouth for best results.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I don't see why they can't just have two driver operators or relief driver dong the conducting and switch if the other driver needs to go to the toilet or feels fatigued. It would make more sense, that way there are no disruptions of any kind.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

And where have the train workers' unions been all these years? What a joke they are.

Having access to clean water on the job is a basic human right, particularly when you have the lives of thousands of people in your hands. This is a prime example of the "can't see the forest for the trees" business/workplace mentality in this country.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I sent the link to this article to my friends back home. I'm a star now.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I used to work at a sunny place going at 34°Celcius and I drank water at midday and bathroom at midday only. Don't know why a someone with a 2hour shift in a train with air co ditio er wants to go drink water

-10 ( +3 / -13 )

so, from now onward let's hope that number of heatstroke cases in Japan will go down (!)

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Gravity flow water tubes! Maybe on the caps like in the USA. Two beers flowing through plastic tubes to the mouth. Isn't the control room air conditioned? Buy the caps!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If these people knew what some of the side effects of dehydration were (nausea, dizziness, inability to concentrate and think critically) they would be giving the drivers water.

kiyoshiMukai: I used to work at a sunny place going at 34°Celcius and I drank water at midday and bathroom at midday only.

That was your choice, some might say it wasn't the wisest one but yours nonetheless. Do you think everyone is the same as you or should, as adults, be told when they can and can't have a drink of water rather than being allowed to do what their own body is telling them is right for them?

Don't know why a someone with a 2hour shift in a train with air co ditio er wants to go drink water.

You can become dehydrated under any circumstances if you don't consume hydrating liquids or foods. It's a myth that only hot weather or sweating a lot causes dehydration.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

You can become dehydrated under any circumstances if you don't consume hydrating liquids or foods. It's a myth that only hot weather or sweating a lot causes dehydration.

I'm sure that's technically true, but it is not that likely.

As for me, while the rule is a bit wierd, it is not the end of the world. He is in an A/C cab and had the opportunity to drink up before getting into the train. It is somewhat understandable that they did not want excessive fluid intakes causing a need to visit the toilet (which can be quite distracting in its own right).

I think to lump this in with moron coaches not letting their kids have a drink of water while running laps is inaccurate and unfair.

As for relief drivers, again with the Western mollycoddling mentality. I don't like OT, much less unpaid OT or excessive "normal" working hours as much as the any Westerner, but there is a point where the guy should be asked to suck up rather than increasing personnel (cost) to further mollycoddle them.

There is also something called image. If you are getting into an airliner, will your best impression be formed if you saw the Captain and he's glugging water? How about salesladies in the shop glugging water? I doubt it. And if your best impression was not formed that way, it might be at least somewhat understandable as to why the ever image-conscious Japanese may consider drinking "on duty" to be something that should be discourged.

-11 ( +0 / -11 )

There is also something called image. If you are getting into an airliner, will your best impression be formed if you saw the Captain and he's glugging water?

Most civilised people wouldn't think twice about it.

How about salesladies in the shop glugging water?

They can disappear into a staff only area for a quick refreshment. Train drivers can't.

Japanese mentality in a nutshell: you can do what you like as long as you are not being seen doing what you like. Hypocrites.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

They can disappear into a staff only area for a quick refreshment. Train drivers can't.

Your answer, IMO, reveals that you won't be joining the "civilized" people who won't be thinking twice about it - that's why you propose they hide into a staff area instead of glugging in the open. Since as you say the train driver does not have such a convenient area, according to you he might actually be obliged to care about image and refrain from drinking.

There are a vast number of activities that are perfectly normal but nevertheless generally considered not fit to be done in the open, including such mundanes as urination. This is no Japan-only issue.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

I used to work at a sunny place going at 34°Celcius and I drank water at midday and bathroom at midday only. Don't know why a someone with a 2hour shift in a train with air co ditio er wants to go drink water

Water is a necessity of life, the body needs it. You can't deny people access to water.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Your answer, IMO, reveals that you won't be joining the "civilized" people who won't be thinking twice about it - that's why you propose they hide into a staff area instead of glugging in the open. Since as you say the train driver does not have such a convenient area, according to you he might actually be obliged to care about image and refrain from drinking.

Then you are mistaken. I personally do not care if a member of staff takes a drink of water while working. I do however, realise that the narrow and petty-minded might view this as an affront to their God given consumer right to be slavishly fawned over at every given moment.

A driver exists to drive a train in a safe and efficient manner. He is not there to stroke off his customers' overblown egos.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

A driver exists to drive a train in a safe and efficient manner. He is not there to stroke off his customers' overblown egos.

And a salesperson is there to process your purchase - who cares if they are rude or sloppy as long as they give you the correct change?

But on the topic of work efficiency, do YOU want someone who can't manage his water intake to drive your train? And if there is no way he can manage his water intake to last a 2 hour shift in a A/Ced "cockpit" without drinking, it says a good bit about his physical condition, and it is not positive. Do you want such an unhealthy person driving your train?

Water is a necessity of life, the body needs it. You can't deny people access to water.

They are not being denied. They are merely being discouraged, so they are encouraged to actually manage their water intake and get fit enough to last 2-hour shifts without either being dehydrated or over-hydrated (I can't see the management looking at emergency toilet trips favorably).

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

But on the topic of work efficiency, do YOU want someone who can't manage his water intake to drive your train?

Isn't that the whole point of this article? JR wasn't ALLOWING the drivers to manage their water intake without filling out unnecessary bureaucratic forms. JR was trying to manage their employee's water intake for them without any regards for the employee's actual water intake needs. Pure folly on the part of JR.

As far as "image" is concerned, I spent a week in Tokyo riding trains all over the city and you know what? I didn't see ONE driver while getting on and off the train in my entire time there. The driver could have been in nothing but an S&M bondage outfit and I wouldn't have known. Getting off and on a train - with multiple doors on every car - is vastly different than getting off and on most planes - where the passengers have to ALL walk past the cockpit door on the way to their seats.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Being dehydrated while operating heavy equipment is asking for trouble.

I've seen many industrial accidents happen because of unrealistic expectations placed on the workers. Not being able to take care of bodily needs being one of them.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If the driver were to pass out due to a lack of hydration and the train were to have an accident...who would be to blame then?

Crazy policy but I can't say I'm not surprised. People with nothing better to do than press their beaks against the drivers window and scrutinise every move he makes. It's no wonder many pull the blinds down.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

is their a bathroom policy too?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

As a boot note, the old steam and diesel locos operated by British Rail had tea making apparatus installed in the cabs! JR are only 80 years behind the times, after all

2 ( +2 / -0 )

While I'm glad to hear that JR is crawling out of the dark ages and allowing their drivers reasonable access to water, I think it's utter insanity that the previous system was ever in place. It's a wonder anything gets done here ever, what with all the red tape everywhere...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If you are getting into an airliner, will your best impression be formed if you saw the Captain and he's glugging water?

I wouldn't care in the slightest. What kind of psychopath would take issue with that?

How about salesladies in the shop glugging water?

I think it would be a bit rude to be drinking in the middle of interacting with customers, but if a clerk wants to take a wip when there's a momentary lull, I would not take any issue with that.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It is now OK for train drivers on JR Central lines to drink water

What a joke. I'd hate to think the train was being driven by a driver who might pass out from dehydration at any moment

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

>I think it would be a bit rude to be drinking in the middle of interacting with customers, but if a clerk wants to take a wip when there's a momentary lull, I would not take any issue with that.

Actually, JimmySeal, like the guy before you, your answer illuminates JR's dilemma. As you have just admitted, while obviously drinking is an essential part of life, people actually do not like to see people drinking, except maybe during proper mealtimes. Everyone is loathe to admit they have this bias, but the fact of life is that it is there, and JR being a company who works with the public has to care about this factor that no one wants to admit is there.

And while image should not come before safety, remember that they are just discouraging the practice. Clearly, if you have to drink, you make the call and drink and write your report. What is really concerning me from a safety viewpoint is how are people who can't last merely two hours without water being allowed to be drivers? Does that not indicate a very low physical status?

As for me, I sit in an air conditioned office and routinely go 3 or 4 hours without water, and I don't even notice. If you are working, you won't even remember. And if you've hydrated yourself previously, your mental state would not suffer for it.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

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