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. Respectful workplace/Prevention of Harassment

OIST held respectful workplace/anti-harassment seminars in English and Japanese targeting all staff members on September 21, 2017 to make sure that all staff members are fully aware of the existence of a hotline and encourage 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 safety training and health check compliance of all employees and students. 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, student 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 Field Work Safety Committee in 2017. This committee is responsible for reviewing Field Work Plans at OIST. It is established with 8 internal members, which includes Diving Safety Officer and Emergency Response Coordinator, and  3 external experts.

The Field Work Safety Committee was reconstructed in early July 2021, appointing additional external field experts. Observers who actively participate in OIST marine field work were also appointed. This has given opportunities for both the committee members and active field participants to exchange opinions for a better two-way communication.

4. Emergency Response Coordinator

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

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 Junichi Ozawa who is an experienced diving instructor and bilingual of Japanese and English as of March 1, 2019. 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. Two applications to convert from French diving certifications were submitted which were approved by Okinawa Labor Bureau in 2021.

In the area of training , began training OIST divers and on-site leaders in June 2020. to enable them to use oxygen in emergencies. This 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 for improvement of safe diving.

6. Incident/Accident Report

OIST Incident and Accident Reporting Guideline has been established in April 2020 to share information on near-miss cases that could have led to injuries and accident cases that caused injuries at OIST and the actions taken to prevent accidents. This Guideline sets forth comprehensive rules for reporting, collecting, analyzing, and publishing information on incidents and accidents in OIST, with the aim of preventing accidents from occurring. The main activity is conducted by the OIST Safety and Health Committee, which discusses corrective actions to prevent recurrence and follows up with the reporter.

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.

The OIST Safety and Health Committee plans and develops other activities for “Safety Enhancement Month” each year, and 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 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 for 2021 “Safety Enhancement Month.” For Safety, ocean safety lecture organized by the Recreation Service, activities on biological inactivation and proper DS2/N95 mask fit training, and laboratory-related near-miss and lesson learned posters were prepared and distributed. Professor Kengo Tomita from Environmental, Health and Safety Office of Nagoya University, specializes in laboratory fire safety, gave a very stimulating seminar on laboratory fire response. For Health and wellbeing category, seminars on managing stress and women’s health, and information video on workplace ergonomics.

8. Outsourcing

During the Field Work Safety Committee meeting on August 2019, with the arrival of the Diving Safety Officer, it was decided the maximum depth that faculty, staff members, and students can dive to 30 meters, where deeper dives are to be outsourced. The person who outsources the diving work is required to prepare a field work plan; this plan is reviewed by the Field Work Safety 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 staff members promote safety management. OIST will continue to strengthen relevant departments by expanding health and safety staff members to improve individual qualities.

Updated on April 7, 2022