7th Asia-Pacific Meeting – Article on Silicosis and Asbestosis – Japan

Concerning the struggles of Kenkoro for eradication of tunnel work silicosis, I think that we have reported every time to our seminars in the past. So I wish to let you know the recent achievement of our struggle and new tasks we face, as well as our campaign to relieve the victims of asbestosis.
To review our national struggle for eradication of tunnel silicosis briefly, we filed suits for compensatory damages against 75major general construction companies with 1,500 victims as plaintiffs. Then, in November 2002, we filed a suit for charging the government responsibility for the occurance of the silicosis with 732 victims including 264 new ones as plaintiffs, and since April in 2006, filed suit with the second group with the slogan “Apologize, compensate and eradicate dust lung diseases!”
As a result, on June 18th, 2007, the Agreement on the preventive measures of tunnel work silicosis” was concluded among the government, the plaintiff and defense counsel so as to promote countermeasures for particle dust. Its concrete measures are as follows:
– Partial amendment of the Regulation on the prevention of dust disorder to be implemented from March 1st, 2008, which includes (i) extension of the list of dust work and obligatory measurement of particle dust, (ii) obligation of wearing masks to protect breathing from particle dust, and (iii) securing time to take shelter on the blasting work
– The government set up two (2) Commissions on the preventive measures at tunnel construction work and on the measurement, to have started technical consideration for the prevention of dust lung disease.
– Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (Kokudo-kotsu-sho) on October 15th, 2008 revised the standards of construction cost estimation for shorter dust exposure time on tunnel workers, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery on December 4th, 2008 revised the same on waterway tunnel.
The plaintiffs, defense counsel and KENKORO together visit various places in the country where tunnel work take place to carry out on the spot inspection and give specific safety education. We have already implemented spot patrol and inspection at 38 points, and KENKORO leaders gave safety education to tunnel miners at 12 workshops.
These results are epoch-making so as to change the government policy for dust lung diseases. We however have appealed from the beginning for the establishment of a special fund in order to change the status quo that the tunnel workers contracted dust lung disease cannot get compensation without filing suit to the court. This is the biggest issue to be settled yet.
On November 27, 2008, the third group of 154 plaintiffs filed suit at 11 district courts for the eradication of dust lung disease. We regard this as an anchor lawsuit aiming for the establishment of a fund for tunnel dust lung disease and setting up of ADR, a system for settlement of dispute out of the court,
Furthermore, KENKORO are conducting three other lawsuits relating to the dust lung diseases, i.e. coal mine dust lung in Hokkaido and Kyushu, and molybdenum mine in Chugoku district. The last one was settled by the reconciliation on February 3 this year.
As for asbestosis, this is the case that workers were damaged seriously from asbestos in the inferior working environment at the manufacturing company of asbestos water pipe, the former Etanitto pipe Kagawa Plant in Shikoku district. Their families have also had secondary damage. Now, 33 workers including their 4 family members wage struggle as plaintiffs. Succeeding company has failed to admit its responsibility, sticking to its lower amount of compensation and insist upon the prescription.
Besides, the damages caused by asbestos is reported that not a few workers who had worked at a chemical plant had dust lung disease examination and made application for recognition of asbestos disease. We are now investigating the case. It is also informed that some workers leaving their homes worked at an asbestos factory in a remote island, and then we began counseling on their health.
Law suites on asbestos conducted other than KENKORO by construction workers in Tokyo, Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa of metropolitan area against construction materials companies and the government. Also in Osaka, asbestos manufacturing plant workers filed suites for compensatory damages against the government. It should be paid attention how things develop.
We aim that all labor accidents and occupational diseases be eradicated. An authority of the issue in Japan says:

– To grasp the working conditions at work places from the viewpoint of health and safety; – To understand each worker in his/her life and consider their health problem in view of workers solidarity; – To think about health of workers in the light of their families and working people, and their fellow workers and think about health problem of fellow workers in their work places; – To think over health problem in the light of society through that of work places; – To think over health problem in the light of the world through that of the society.
Let’s eradicate labor accidents and occupational diseases from Asia and Pacific by the strength of unity and solidarity of construction workers in the region!
Tadao Tomioka National Labor Safety & Health Section KENKORO