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Sep. 28, 2012

Working for a healthier RIKEN

Occupational Health Center Team

photo of Occupational Health Center Team

All RIKEN campuses

Please tell us about your work at RIKEN.

The most important role of the Occupational Health Center is to prevent work-related diseases and accidents at RIKEN. To achieve this, we inspect laboratories for industrial hygiene, develop protocols for accident prevention and provide specific health examinations for the early detection of occupational diseases. Importantly, we also support employees on or returning from sick leave. As medical professionals, we provide various health services including regular medical examinations, follow‑up advice and health consultations.

What is the most difficult aspect of your job?

It can be difficult to arrange health consultations because everybody at RIKEN is busy and often on the move, be it for a business trip or moving between their office and a laboratory. Language and cultural differences are also a part of life at RIKEN, and sometimes it is a challenge to effectively communicate technical medical concepts.

What kind of support does RIKEN offer to its non-Japanese staff?

We provide maps in Japanese and English to nearby medical facilities, maintain a list of doctors in the area who can speak foreign languages, and use medical history forms in several languages for our consultations. For patients who visit our office, we do our best to communicate in English. With prior permission from a patient, we can arrange for an interpreter to be present at consultations. Furthermore, as legislation for occupational health can vary between countries, we try to familiarize staff from abroad with related Japan­ese legislation and the rules at RIKEN.

Many RIKEN staff work in research laboratories. Does this present any particular healthcare issues?

RIKEN scientists conduct research requiring a variety of organic solvents and chemical substances, often in combination, that are potentially harmful. Our center takes appropriate precautions to keep RIKEN employees safe around these substances and to help prevent accidents. We also focus on education and accident prevention for research involving human serum or experimental animals.

How to do you work with the Occupational Health Centers at other RIKEN institutes?

In addition to our center at Wako, we also have centers at five other RIKEN locations. Each has occupational physicians specializing in internal medicine and psychiatry, nurses, psychologists and administrative personnel. Our staff stays up-to-date with the activities of our other offices and holds regular meetings with them to share information and decide on policy.

What have been the highlights of your time at RIKEN so far?

A very rewarding aspect of our job is when we see people restored to health and resuming their normal lives after going through a tough period of illness. It is also gratifying when people who are leaving RIKEN visit to thank us and say goodbye.

What would you say to people considering joining RIKEN?

While RIKEN is a leading research institution, not everybody at RIKEN works on the front line. We depend on a variety of behind-the-scenes support to function smoothly. RIKEN is a place where everyone can use their gifts and develop their skills.