Safety and Health at OIST

Following the tragic diving incident of November 14, 2016, OIST has undertaken multiple steps to improve our health and safety measures at the University. This page shows practical actions taken to improve safety at OIST.

1. Respectful Workplace/Prevention of Harassment

Although a respectful workplace is stated as one of OIST's basic policies, OIST held respectful workplace/anti-harassment seminars in English and Japanese targeting all staff members on September 21, 2017. This seminar reaffirmed OIST's basic "respectful workplace" policies and explained the harassment reporting hotline. Harassment prevention training has since become mandatory for all OIST employees.

2. Safety Training and Mandatory Health Check-up

OIST implemented an electronic "dashboard" system to manage all employees' and students' safety training and health check status. Employees involved with field work are subject to taking basic life support training (First Aid, AED, and CPR) in a classroom, online general safety training for the field work, and other necessary trainings. All employees, students, and immediate supervisors have immediate access to each individual's training and health check completion status.

3. Field Work Safety Committee

OIST established a Field Work Safety Committee in 2017. This committee is responsible for reviewing Field Work Plans at OIST and is established with five internal members and two external experts.

The Field Work Safety Committee was reconstructed in early October 2023, appointing one external field (marine) expert.

4. Diving Control Board

In the fall of 2022, the President, Provost, Executive Director, and marine faculty agreed to adopt the American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) Standards for Scientific Diving, a global standard for scientific diving. The Diving Control Board was established on March 10, 2023, to establish the system prescribed in the manual, and a new Diving Safety Manual was established on May 25, 2023. Since then, scientific diving at OIST has been conducted in accordance with the standards and procedures set forth in the manual to ensure safety.

5. Diving Safety Officer

Since March 1, 2019, the Diving Safety Officer has been assigned to oversee the health and safety of diving. From March 10, 2023, an accomplished Diving Safety Officer who established a diving safety program overseas has been appointed. Also, foreign commercial diving licenses are being converted to valid Japanese commercial diving licenses with support from the Japanese and overseas affiliations. So far, the Okinawa Labor Bureau approved license conversion for a UK diving license in 2019, two French diving licenses in 2021, and one US private training organization certificate in 2022.

In the training area, emergency oxygen provider training was provided to OIST divers and on-site leaders from June 2020. This training will make it possible to provide oxygen inhalation to those who have been involved in diving accidents before the arrival of emergency services, thereby improving the lifesaving rate. We will continue to train divers and conduct site inspections to improve safe diving.

6. Outsource Diving Operations at Depths Greater than 30 meters

During the Field Work Safety Committee meeting in August 2019, it was decided that the maximum depth that faculty, staff members, and students can dive is 30 meters, where deeper dives are to be outsourced. The person who outsources the diving work is required to prepare a field work plan; Field Work Safety Committee reviews this plan.

7. Emergency Response Coordinator

An Emergency Response Coordinator is in place to plan how to strategically respond to emergencies that may occur at OIST, such as fires, earthquakes, and tsunamis.

8. Incident/Accident Report

OIST Research Related Incident Investigation Report Guideline was established in April 2020, which sets forth comprehensive rules for reporting, collecting, analyzing, and publishing information on incidents and accidents at OIST to prevent accidents from recurring. Based on this guideline, a project to gather near-miss cases that could have led to injuries and accident cases that resulted in injuries at OIST and the actions taken to prevent incidents. The OIST Safety and Health Committee discusses corrective actions to prevent recurrence and follows up with the reporter.

9. Health and Safety Month (previously known as Safety Enhancement Month)

Every year, we designate November, the month in which the diving incident occurred, as "Health and Safety Month" to re-focus and concentrate on how we can continue to improve our safety system. 

OIST held a Shohei Suzuki memorial lecture on November 13, 2017, as part of the University's initiative to observe the "safety month." At the event, OIST Professor Noriyuki Satoh gave a lecture on marine science. Prof. Economo announced that he found a new ant species and named it after Dr. Shohei Suzuki. He presented a photo of the ant to the family and shared his thoughts on naming the ant after him with them.

The establishment of the "Shohei Suzuki Research Safety Fund" for the promotion of safe field work was announced. The fund started accepting donations from November 30, 2017. The Suzuki family, then-President Peter Gruss, then-Dean of Research Mary Collins, and other members of OIST have donated to the Shohei Suzuki Research Safety Fund to promote the safety culture in the University. The fund opened a call for applications to the Research Safety Financial Support Program in May 2018 to promote research safety awareness and training at OIST and enable students and junior researchers or technicians from OIST to undertake field work while developing the necessary skills, including research safety training. So far, seven programs have been supported by the fund.

The OIST Safety and Health Committee plans and implements activities for the "Health and Safety Month" every year with the cooperation of the Student Association, Health Center, and Ganjuu Wellbeing Service. We conduct a wide range of campus-wide health and safety awareness activities, not only in the field of safety but also in the fields of health and welfare. Through seminars and participatory events, we will continue to share issues with the entire University and raise awareness of safety improvements through activities to promote compliance check on safety regulations.

Various events took place during the 2023 "Health and Safety Month." In the safety category, personal protection equipment were displayed, online training (Update Session 2023) was prepared to share injury and near-miss incidents with updates on laws and regulations relevant to research activities. For health and wellbeing, internal seminars were held to learn about appropriate ways of managing stress and improving wellbeing.

10. More Robust Safety and Health Division

As mentioned above, the Emergency Response Coordinator, Diving Safety Officer, Field Work Safety Staff that supports Field Work Safety Committee, and the existing staff members promote safety management. OIST will continue strengthening relevant departments by expanding health and safety staff members to improve individual qualities.


Updated on December 20, 2023