Research Safety

Following the tragic diving incident of November 14, 2016, OIST has undertaken multiple steps to improve our health and safety measures at the University. The University has been implementing the “Know Safety, No Pain” initiative, mandated by OIST President Peter Gruss and spearheaded by the Research Support Division. This page shows practical actions taken to improve safety at OIST.

1. Disrespectful behavior / Harassment

OIST held respectful workplace / anti-harassment seminars in English and Japanese targeting all staff on September 21, 2017 to make sure the staff are fully aware of the existence of a hotline and encouraged to use the policy of respectful workplace at the university.

2. Safety Training and Mandatory Health Check-up

OIST has implemented an electronic “dashboard” system to monitor training and health check compliance. Employees involved with field work are subject to taking basic life support training (First Aid, AED and CPR) in a classroom, an online general safety training for the field work, and other necessary trainings. Each employee and their supervisor can now check the status of their compliance immediately.

University-wide survey on health checks were conducted during April to May 2019. Industrial Physician and Health Officer visited the laboratories to check whether necessary health checks were completed based on actual needs.

3. Field Work Safety Committee

OIST has established a fieldwork safety committee in 2017, including a technical diving expert (a technical advisor of Japan Diving Association and a former diver of the Japanese Self-Defense Force member) and a coordinator on marine research (a technical specialist) from the University of the Ryukyu’s Tropical Biosphere Research Center Sesoko Marine Station and a Diving Safety Officer mentioned below. The committee is responsible for reviewing all fieldwork plans at OIST. Each activity has to follow rigid request procedures which are overseen by the committee.

4. Emergency Response Coordinator

We have appointed Koji Fukuoka in February 2018, as Emergency Response Coordinator, who will lead establishing strategic plans on how the University deals with disasters such as fire, earthquake and tsunamis. He established BCP on earthquake, tsunamis, accidents with casualties, Fire Response manual that was posted at each unit/section, and trained the OIST community in how to respond to a fire and earthquake. He also trained faculty and staff using Seaside House and Seaside Faculty House on major tsunami evacuation in cooperation with Japan Air Self-Defense Force in September 2018. As part of improving safety management system for education and research activities in 2019, such mechanism as each researcher, etc., identifies hazard in advance and establishes accident prevention measures was introduced and is monitored.

5. Diving Safety Officer

For the post of a specialized diving safety officer who takes full responsibility for all aspects of health and safety concerns with diving, OIST has appointed Mr. Junichi Ozawa who is an experienced diving instructor and bilingual of Japanese and English as of March 1, 2019.

OIST is in the process of incorporating “Scientific diving program,” a diving safety management system for coral, fish, environmental research, etc., which are already generalized in Europe and America, and converting foreign commercial diving license to ones valid in Japan, with support from Japanese and overseas affiliations.

As a first case, the Okinawa Labor Bureau approved license conversion for a researcher with a UK SCUBA diving qualification from HSE in December 2019. Application to convert from French diving certification is being prepared from December of the same year.

6. Reports on Near Misses

OIST promotes open reporting of minor accidents and “near misses.” Open reporting means that the reporters or the persons involved in the “near misses” are not reprimanded. By ensuring that no one gets reprimanded, the University encourages researchers and students to report rather than hiding the near misses. OIST exhibited a gallery of 20 “near miss” posters. They were presented in the corridor connecting Lab 1 and Lab 3 in November 2017 during the Safety Enhancement Month. In FY 2018, ten additional posters were created on different near misses and minor accidents. They were posted throughout the campus during the Safety Enhancement Month in November 2018. During FY2019, these posters were posted at various locations during periods other than the Safety Enhancement Month, raising safety awareness to researchers and students.

"Near miss" posters 2017

"Near miss" posters 2018

7. Safety Enhancement Month

The month of November every year, which is the month the diving incident took place, would be dedicated to safety, to allow us 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 promotion of safe field work was announced. The fund started accepting donation from November 30, 2017. The Suzuki family, President Peter Gruss, Dean of Research, Mary Collins, and other members of OIST have donated to Shohei Suzuki Research Safety Fund to promote the safety culture in the University. The fund opened a call for applications to 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 fieldwork while developing the necessary skills including research safety training. So far, 7 programs have been supported by the fund.

An internal competition for a new safety slogan was organized and “Know Safety, No Pain,” proposed by Mr. Udaya Sankar Palani was selected as safety slogan in 2017. 50 posters of “Know Safety, No Pain” are now posted throughout the campus. “Get SMART use SAFETY from the START” was selected as the new safety slogan in 2018. Posters with the new slogan are posted throughout the campus.

Safety slogan poster 2017

Safety slogan poster 2018

For the FY2017 Safety Enhancement Month, toward promotion of awareness and skill on health and safety of supervisors, “Leadership Training on Health and Safety for Supervisors (SHOKUCHO-KYOIKU)” was conducted on November 24, 2017 inviting Prof. Yoshito Oshima from the University of Tokyo as a lecturer.

In addition, we held a series of activities: 2017 update session on health and safety (November 24th); Special safety lecture focusing on laboratory fire accidents by Prof. Kengo Tomita, EHS office of Nagoya University (November 24th); Gallery of safety management posters (whole November); hands-on training on chemical safety (November 6th and 7th); Unannounced on-site inspection on PPE and poison (throughout November).

For the FY2018 Safety Enhancement Month, "Fieldwork with Safety in Mind" by Dr. Vladimir Dinets of Science and Technology Group was held on November 1, 2018. Dr. Dinets is a zoologist studying animal behavior and conservation. In this seminar, he talked about his fieldwork experience through his wonderful wildlife photos from around the world and what he considered to return home safe.

In addition, the education and training on Mass Casualty Life Support (MCLS) in response to potential natural disaster or a serious accident was held on November 27, 2018. This session covered 1) principles of disaster medical treatment, 2) response, rescue, and medical activities for mass casualties, and 3) how to command and control the scene.

Seminars on VDT syndrome and back strain prevention took place on November 26th during the 2019 Safety Enhancement Month. Additionally, the student council raised safety awareness through quizzes at a university-wide quiz event on November 29th focusing on health and safety.

8. Outsourcing

OIST will follow the recommendation by the external review panel and will use external contractors for technical diving. Even when we use the external contractors, the requester needs to make a field work plan. The plan will be reviewed by the field work committee.

9. More Robust Safety and Health Division

As mentioned above, Emergency Response Coordinator, Diving Safety Officer, and Field Work Safety Staff that supports Field Work Safety Committee, which were appointed after the diving accident, and the existing staffs promote safety management. OIST will continue to strengthen relevant departments by expanding health and safety staffs to improve individual qualities.

Updated on February 5, 2020