Tokyo Electric Power Co. will issue new custom-made protective gear to enable easy viewing of dosimeters that technicians and other workers display on their chests.
The move comes after The Asahi Shimbun reported in late July that a TEPCO subcontractor ordered its workers to cover their dosimeters with lead plates so as to keep radiation doses low enough to continue working under dangerous conditions.
On July 31, TEPCO announced that the new protective gear will have a transparent vinyl part near the chest through which dosimeters can be easily viewed. The gear will be used by workers at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant from October.
Workers at nuclear plants normally carry two dosimeters. A digital version displays the radiation dose the worker was exposed to on the day he worked. The other badge-like device records accumulated radiation exposure over a much longer period.
Both devices are normally kept in the chest pockets of the workers' shirts, which means the devices are not visible to others.
After the report surfaced that an executive at the subcontractor instructed workers to use the lead plates to cover the dosimeters, TEPCO began considering new measures at the behest of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.
At a July 31 news conference, Junichi Matsumoto, acting general director of TEPCO's Nuclear Power and Plant Siting Division, said, "We tried to come up with something that would act as a deterrent by making (the dosimeters) visible from the outside."
The new protective gear will be worn by workers in environments where the radiation warning signal is set at 3 millisieverts and above.
Workers will be exempt from using the new gear if they are in areas with expected higher radiation levels and use special protective gear containing tungsten that is more effective in shutting out radiation.
Workers at nuclear plants have annual radiation exposure limits that determine if they can continue working at such facilities.
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