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Transformational activity by top management for the enhancement of safety in a nuclear power plant in Japan

FUKUI Hirokazu1, and SUGIMANToshio2
1. Institute of Nuclear Safety System, Inc., Sata 64, Mihama-cho, Mikata-gun, Fukui 919-1205, Japan (
2. Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies, Kyoto University, Kyoto 606-8501, Japan
Abstract:Using Engeström’s activity theory, we investigated how company-wide transformational activity was initiated and how it has changed everyday activities in a nuclear power plant in Japan. We renamed ‘learning activity’ in the theory ‘transformational activity’ in this paper. It was defined as an activity that continues for a certain amount of period and transforms existing everyday organizational activities into new ones by changing the underlying premises of activities.We described a precise example of transformational activity we observed in our intensive field work in a large electric power company where the first fatal accident in the history of a nuclear power plant in Japan occurred in one plant several years ago. Using the model of activity theory, this transformational activity was depicted as following: the reform committee for maintenance work (subject of activity) acted on existing everyday activities for maintenance (object of activity) and transformed them into new ones (outcome of activity) with the use of requests submitted by subcontracted workers for improvement of working conditions and a budget to materialize them (mediating artifact of activity), in the collaboration with the top management who launched and persistently supported the reform committee, subcontracted workers responsible for the physical labor force in operational fields who actively submitted requests for improvement, and workers of the electric company who reviewed the requests and materialized most of themby a budgetary step (community member of activity and division of labor of activity), and with the shared awareness that any measures should be taken to actualize the lesson from the accident (rule of activity). Prior to the accident, safety was regarded as important as long as efficiency would not be sacrificed. Now,in the everyday activities achieved by the transformational activity, safety in operational fields is emphasized to the extent that anyone could not have imagined until the accident.
Keywords: safety; activity theory; transformational activity; maintenance; nuclear power plant
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