Photo/IllutrationOil dampers used in this building housing the Finance Ministry were included in the list released by KYB Corp. (Shigetaka Kodama)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

All anti-earthquake oil dampers installed at Tokyo Skytree meet government safety standards, but the same cannot be said for 70 government buildings around Japan.

In addition, residents of condominium complexes will have to wait to learn if their homes are equipped with substandard oil dampers that were shipped after KYB Corp., a hydraulic equipment manufacturer, and its subsidiary, Kayaba System Machinery Co., falsified inspection data on the products.

Officials of the two companies held a news conference on Oct. 19 to announce the first batch of buildings that could be affected in the scandal.

They named 70 government buildings that have oil dampers used for seismic isolation and vibration control that may not meet government or client standards for safety.

Specifically, 11 of the buildings did not meet infrastructure ministry standards, including the No. 1 joint central government building in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward that houses the farm ministry; the Aichi prefectural government building in Nagoya; and the No. 2 Osaka joint local government building.

Seventeen others were below specifications set by the building owner.

For the remaining 42 buildings, which include the one housing the Finance Ministry, it was unclear if their oil dampers were shipped out based on false inspection data, the company officials said.

Some of those buildings house government offices that are in charge of disaster management for their local areas.

KYB on Oct. 16 admitted that company workers had falsified inspection data on the oil dampers since at least 2003 to avoid having to retest the products and to ensure deliveries arrived on time. KYB admitted that substandard oil dampers had also been exported to Taiwan.

KYB and the subsidiary said 987 facilities may have suspect anti-quake equipment, with 904 possibly having substandard seismic isolation oil dampers and 83 having suspect vibration control oil dampers.

Of the structures having suspect seismic isolation oil dampers, 253 were residential complexes, 158 were medical or social welfare facilities, 147 were office buildings and 107 were government buildings.

The 70 buildings identified account for only 7 percent of the total.

The company that operates Tokyo Skytree, the world’s tallest free-standing broadcast tower, said on Oct. 19 that all 225 oil dampers used there meet the government’s standards, even though 90 of the oil dampers were sent out based on falsified inspection data.

The data was overstated to give the impression that the products were of extremely high quality.

The officials of the two companies said that only government buildings were named because they gave priority to facilities where a large number of people visit on a daily basis.

They also said they could only release the names of buildings if the owners gave their consent.

That means condominium complexes, which account for about one-third of the facilities with possibly faulty equipment, were not named on Oct. 19.

The company officials apologized to residents of condominiums where the suspect oil dampers have been installed. They also admitted that shipments of oil dampers continued for about a month after an employee at Kayaba System Machinery pointed out the irregularity of rewriting inspection data in August.

The officials pledged to replace all substandard oil dampers by September 2020.

But replacing the equipment could result in legal headaches and possible compensation payments.

To start replacing the oil dampers, the consent of all residents of a structure will be required in the case of condominium complexes.

“Strength against earthquakes is an important selling point, so those who purchased the condominium units could consider it a breach of trust if the capabilities are not up to standard,” said Osamu Takahashi, an architecture professor at the Tokyo University of Science.

He added that some residents may not go along with replacing the oil dampers because such moves could decrease the value of their asset.

KYB officials said they would increase production of oil dampers fivefold to meet the September 2020 deadline. Its subsidiary currently manufactures about 100 oil dampers a month.

However, Takahashi said there is often a wait of four to six months for installation of the oil dampers.

And if a building has to be partially dismantled to install new oil dampers, the replacement process could take several years, according to Takahashi.

The equipment to control vibration from earthquakes and the wind is installed behind walls, which would have to be knocked down in the replacement process. If people reside or work near those walls, they would have to temporarily move while the oil dampers are being replaced.

After Toyo Tire & Rubber Co. was found to have falsified inspection test data for vibration-absorbing rubber products, the company was sued by a real estate company that sold condominium units that used the defective products.

Toyo Tire & Rubber was ordered to pay about 300 million yen ($2.7 million) in compensation. Moreover, a subsidiary was fined for false labeling of specifications and ordered to pay 10 million yen.

KYB and its subsidiary could also face criminal and civil trials related to their shipping of substandard oil dampers.