National

Japanese authorities say suicide of JAXA contractor was work-related

JIJI

Authorities have recognized the October 2016 suicide of a man involved in satellite control operations at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Tsukuba Space Center as a work-related death, it was learned Wednesday.

The labor standards inspection office of Tsuchiura, Ibaraki Prefecture, ruled on Tuesday that Yukinobu Sato’s death was due to adjustment disorder caused by strong psychological stress from his work, the bereaved family told a news conference Wednesday.

Sato, then 31, was working on control operations for the greenhouse gas-observing satellite Ibuki at the space center in the prefecture. He took his own life at his home.

In October 2015, Sato was transferred from Tokyo-based system development firm Software Consultant Corp. to group company Space Engineering Development Co.

He was involved in the satellite control operations based on Space Engineering’s contract with JAXA.

According to the bereaved family’s lawyer, the Tsuchiura office recognized that Sato had been involved in software development, in addition to the control operations, and had too many quotas imposed on him.

The office also said that Sato had problems with his supervisor, who scolded him when he turned in an overtime work application.

Taking into account the major change in Sato’s workload and work duties, the office decided that he was under strong mental stress.

At the news conference, Sato’s mother, Hisae, 60, described him as a “kind and sincere son with a strong sense of responsibility.”

“No lives should ever be lost because of work,” she said.

Space Engineering said it takes the matter seriously and will handle the case carefully.

JAXA said the agency will work to assess the situation, including whether it had any room for improvement as the entity that commissioned the control operations.