Is fear the best teacher?

A small group of employees at one of Japan’s larger railway operators, JR West, were made to sit in a tunnel along the tracks used by the high speed Shinkansen trains. Some of them had told their bosses that they didn’t want to come, but their concerns were brushed aside with a simple response of: “But it’s your turn.”

The group was divided into two and separately led down into a small groove between train tracks measuring about one meter wide and one meter deep. Wearing hard hats and safety googles, they waited.

Suddenly, 700 tons of glass and metal came hurling by within a few feet of their heads at a speed of 300 kilometers per hour. This spot was chosen so the train would be moving at its maximum speed.

▼ An image that shows how close the employees
had to be to the speeding death machines.

This is “300 Kilometer-per-hour Close Proximity Training” based on descriptions of those interviewed by Mainichi Shinbun who have experienced it. It is a regularly held training session for those in JR West whose work is connected to safety inspection so that they can get a firsthand look at the importance of their work.

▼ Some Shinkansen trains whizzing by a station at near-300-kilometer-per-hour speeds

The training began in 2015, after a 71-centimeter by 62-centimeter plate which wasn’t securely bolted to car number two of a bullet train fell off and damaged the car behind it. In addition to the insufficient tightening, a lack of proper safety inspection was also to blame.

A JR West rep told Mainichi, “It is to give employees who work with train cars an opportunity to experience and understand the importance of their work,” while adding, “We pay the appropriate attention to safety.”

▼ FNN News Report with a CGI reenactment of the training

Meanwhile, a “trainee” was reported as saying, “We can understand the danger of loose bolts without going into the tunnel. This is a matter of putting staff in danger.” The JR West labor union has also asked that the training be stopped but have yet to get a reply on the matter.

Many online failed to see the usefulness of this unique form of education.

“Unfortunately all that valuable training will be lost when a piece of metal hits their brain.”
“I would think you get the same effect standing on a station platform.”
“This seems more like bullying than training.”
Train otaku would probably pay good money for such an experience.”
“That seems traumatizing.”
“How about this thing they invented called VR?”

Expert in human error theory at Kansai University, Professor Nakamura, tends to agree with the netizens telling Mainichi that the risk of taking employees into the tunnel defeats the purpose of reducing the risk of human error. He adds that the act itself is meaningless without the proper education to support it.

I tend to agree as well, having a similar grievance with this website. In order to ensure I write with absolute accuracy about some of the events that go on around here, I had to sit within inches of Mr. Sato’s butt for an hour while he was wearing a mankini so that I could memorize its landscape… I can still see it whenever I close my eyes.

Source: Mainichi Shimbun, Hachima Kiko
Top image: YouTube/irodori1123