Photo/IllutrationA foreign technical trainee shows the work-related injuries he suffered on his right hand at a hearing held at the Diet in November. (Takeshi Iwashita)

Thirty foreign technical trainees died in work-related accidents over a four-year period at a rate roughly double that of all Japanese workers, according to a labor ministry report.

The higher death rate for the foreign trainees reflects the fact that many work in construction and food production industries where accidents often occur, and they may not have received proper training on safety.

The ministry’s study was based on reports submitted to local labor standard inspection offices between fiscal 2014 and fiscal 2017.

According to the study, eight foreign technical trainees were killed in work-related accidents in fiscal 2014, nine in fiscal 2015, five in fiscal 2016, and eight in fiscal 2017.

Few details were provided on how the trainees died, but ministry officials said that many of the deaths in fiscal 2017 were caused by falling from high places and collisions.

The number of foreign technical trainees steadily rose over the four years, from 167,626 in 2014 to 192,655 in 2015, 228,588 in 2016 and 274,233 in 2017.

A rough calculation found an annual average of 3.64 deaths for every 100,000 foreign technical trainees.

Among all Japanese workers, the average figure between 2014 and 2017 was 1.73 fatalities for every 100,000 workers.

“There is no mistaking that many foreign technical trainees are placed in dangerous work sites,” said Shiro Sasaki, secretary-general of a labor union that has provided support to foreign technical trainees. “There is also a high possibility that many of the companies that accept such workers do not provide adequate safety education or implement the proper safety measures.”

The number of injuries suffered by foreign technical trainees has also been increasing.

Workers are eligible to receive benefits from workers’ compensation insurance if they cannot work for four days or more.

The number of foreign technical trainees who came under that category was 639 in 2017, an increase of 143 from the previous year.

By industry, 367 were in manufacturing jobs, 145 in construction and 71 in farming, forestry, fisheries and livestock farming.

Although the number of foreign technical trainees increased by 36,000 in 2016 from the previous year, the number of reported injuries and deaths was about the same.

Foreign technical trainees can work in about 80 different industrial sectors, from construction and food production to equipment and metal manufacturing.

Yoshihisa Saito, an associate professor of law and social development at Kobe University who is knowledgeable about the technical trainee program in Japan, said many inexperienced trainees take on jobs that are avoided by Japanese.

The foreign trainees often come to Japan by taking out loans, according to Saito, so many cannot refuse requests to work long hours because they have a fixed time period to work in the country.

“Safety management may not be thorough due to differences in language and customs,” Saito said.