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Gov't orders probe of shock absorber firm on doctored data; Tokyo Skytree affected

KYB Corp. President and Chairman Yasusuke Nakajima, Kayaba System Machinery Co. President Shigeki Hirokado and KYB board member Keisuke Saito bow in apology at a press conference at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, in Tokyo, on Oct. 16, 2018. (Mainichi/Koichiro Tezuka)

TOKYO -- The government has ordered the leading maker of earthquake shock absorber KYB Corp. and its subsidiary to submit plans to prevent data falsification after the companies admitted to forging product quality data.

Their systems are used in nearly 1,000 facilities nationwide including the landmark Tokyo Skytree tower, Tokyo Station and buildings of local governments.

Chief Cabinet Secretary called the revelation "extremely regrettable" at an Oct. 17 news conference. He promised that the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism would make sure to secure the safety of the buildings in question and prevent the same thing from happening again.

The infrastructure ministry has also instructed the country's 88 other quake shock absorber producers to probe if they committed any data falsification and report back before the end of the year.

KYB made an announcement on Oct. 16 that it had sold shock absorbers and stabilizers to dampen the effects of seismic events for which the quality data had been doctored. A total of 986 buildings all over Japan, including apartment buildings, hospitals and schools are equipped with KYB faulty shock absorption systems.

In response to an instruction from the ministry, the company examined the safety of all of the buildings and reported, "We have confirmed that they can withstand an earthquake with a seismic intensity of around 7 (on the Japanese 7-point scale)."

According to KYB, since January 2003, the firm altered the data of equipment that did not meet government standards or customer requests when inspecting the products for shipment. From inspection records and questioning, at least 8 KYB inspectors were involved.

There is suspicion that the doctoring of the data runs back further to 2000, but inspection records from before January 2003 are said to no longer exist. Including products for which falsification of data cannot be confirmed, the total of questionable equipment installed adds up to shock absorbers in 903 buildings and stabilizers in 83.

By prefecture, there are 222 buildings with shock absorbers and 28 with stabilizers with falsified quality data in Tokyo. There are also 98 with such shock absorbers and nine with stabilizers in Osaka in western Japan, including the prefectural government headquarters. Kanagawa Prefecture south of Tokyo has 67 buildings with the questionable shock absorbers and four with the stabilizers.

KYB is planning to replace the faulty equipment, even in cases where the altering of the quality data cannot be confirmed.

This August, a worker with the KYB subsidiary Kayaba System Machinery Co. (KSM) suspected that data was being altered and reported it to their superior, exposing the practice. KYB voluntarily reported it to the infrastructure ministry on Sept. 19.

Of the reason for the data altering, KYB explained, "There is testimony that it was changed out of awareness of the delivery date." In addition, it also appears that when KYB transferred manufacturing to KSM in 2007, the person in charge of inspections also passed along the data doctoring method.

KYB holds the top share in shock absorbing and stabilizing oil dampers in Japan. In addition to automobile parts, it also has a strong hold in anti-earthquake systems for buildings.

(Japanese original by Norihito Hanamure, City News Department)

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