A labour union has finally convinced the operator of Japan’s shinkansen to halt a training programme that required employees to crouch beside the tracks as bullet trains sped past at 300km/h.
The West Japan Railway Workers Union, one of the labour groups representing employees of JR West, has filed no fewer than eight requests with the company to halt the practice, which was introduced in February 2016 to increase safety awareness among staff.
Six months prior to its introduction, a passenger had been injured when an aluminium component detached from a bullet train in Fukuoka Prefecture. Determined to reinforce the need for safety, the company subsequently ordered staff to put on hard hats and safety goggles and crouch down in the maintenance lane between two tracks while trains passed them just a metre away.
Around 240 JR West staff have undergone the training, despite repeated complaints from the union that the practice was dangerous.
“Exposing employees to danger is a problem,” a union official reportedly told the company.
The official added that, “Workers have been forced to undergo the training as a sort of punishment for the accident.”
Tatsuo Kijima, president of the company, defended the programme, saying it had been “necessary” to improve the “safety awareness and skills of car inspection technicians”.