Rushed Schedule of Tokyo Olympic Construction May Be Affecting Worker Safety

Rushed Schedule of Tokyo Olympic Construction May Be Affecting Worker Safety

Construction for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games is right on schedule, but with a labor shortage in Japan and a rushed schedule, workers’ safety is being compromised.

The opening ceremony for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games is less than a year away, and while construction is right on schedule, officials are questioning whether the speedy schedule might be affecting the safety of workers.

There are officially two deaths and 14 injuries linked to the construction of this 2020 Olympics.

The first death took place in 2017, when a 23-year-old Olympic stadium worker killed himself after clocking nearly 200 hours of overtime the month before. The second came from 2018, when a man was crushed to death between a crane and scaffolding.

According to a veteran contractor who works as a sub-subcontractor on a project to build the Olympic Village, manpower is about 40 percent short and due to the quick schedule, there have been safety shortcuts.

“It’s like an assembly line for cars,” he said. “You have to install the hoods no matter what because those putting in the windshields are waiting next.”

Six-day work weeks are common in Japan, especially with the labor shortage. In addition, one in four construction workers in Japan is 60 years or older.

The Building and Wood Worker’s International union reported in May that there were “dangerous patterns of overwork” happening due to the Olympic construction. It also said the employers had created an environment where workers were afraid to complain in fear of losing their job.

"Their logic is that since there is no filing of complaints, there is no problem," a labor union official near Tokyo told AFP. "The system is just to establish an 'alibi' for them."

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