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 Office of the Dean of Research. 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.

3. Field Work Safety Committee

OIST has established a fieldwork safety committee, 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 had several excellent candidates for an emergency response coordinator who will have the responsibility of organizing how the university deals with emergencies in any of the activities in the university. OIST has made an offer to a selected candidate. The coordinator is planned to be on board on February 1, 2018.

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 made a contract with a part-time diving safety officer who is an experienced diving instructor and bilingual of Japanese and English. The University is actively seeking the right candidate for a full-time diving safety officer. 

6. Reports on Near Misses

OIST promotes open reporting of minor accidents and “near misses.” Open reporting means, the reporters or the persons involved in the “near misses” are not reprimanded. By making sure that there is no reprimand, the University encourages researchers and students to report but not to hide the near misses. OIST had a gallery of 20 “near miss” posters. They were presented in a corridor between Lab 1 and Lab 3 in November during the safety enhancement month. It was decided that the gallery will continue until end of March 2018.

 ”Near miss" posters

7. Safety 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.

This year, OIST held a Shohei Suzuki memorial lecture of on November 13 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. 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. Dean of Research, Mary Collins, and other members of OIST will donate to Shohei Suzuki Research Safety Fund to promote the safety culture in the University.

To coincide with this safety month, OIST had a gallery of “near miss” posters and the gallery will continue until end of March 2018 as mentioned above.

An internal competition for a new safety slogan was organized and “Know Safety, No Pain” proposed by Mr. Palani has been selected as this year safety slogan. 50 posters of “Know Safety, No Pain” are now posted throughout the campus.

 Safety slogan poster

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 24th 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).

8. Outsourcing

OIST will follow the recommendation by the external review panel and will use external contractors for work 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

The appointment of the emergency coordinator is the first of these appointments. The position of Field Work Safety Staff has been newly established for enhancement of field work safety management, and its advertisement already started. We would continue to consider to expand our health and safety staff to make this more robust.