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J Occup Health. 2013;55(1):6-10. Epub 2012 Nov 27.

How Occupational Health can contribute in a disaster and what we should prepare for the future--lessons learned through support activities of a medical school at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Summer 2011.

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Department of Occupational Health Practice and Management, Institute of Industrial Ecological Sciences, University of Occupational and Environmental Health, Japan.



A nuclear accident occurred at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) as a result of a mega-earthquake and tsunami in March, 2011. A large number of workers were engaged in response and recovery operations under a complex structure of involved companies. They were exposed not only to radiation but also to other health hazards. TEPCO implemented programs to prevent radiation exposure, but had no effective systems for managing the other health risks and few occupational health (OH) professionals contributed to the health risk management.


The University of Occupational and Environmental Health (UOEH), Japan, dispatched physicians to a quake-proof building at the plant to provide first-aid services from mid-May, 2011, and took a strategic approach to protecting workers from existing health risks. UOEH presented recommendations on OH systems and preventive measures against heat stress to the Government and TEPCO. The Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare issued guidelines to TEPCO and contractors. TEPCO implemented a comprehensive program against heat stress according to the guidelines and in cooperation with UOEH. As a result, we successfully prevented severe heat illness during summer 2011.


From our experiences, we believe that the following recommendations should be considered: (1) the role of OH and the participation of experts should be defined in emergency response plans; (2) regulations should allow the national government and main companies involved to lead safety and health initiatives for all workers at disaster sites; and (3) OH professionals, response manuals and drills should be organized at a national level.

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