Tottori Occupational Safety and Health Center

by Tadasi Minoura*
Managing Director of Tottori Occupational Safety and Health Center (TOSHC)

In April 1993, in an effort to help develop safe, healthy and comfortable working environment, promote exchange and support victims, Tottori Occupational Safety and Health Center (TOSHC) was established under the initiative of 16 local unions including prefectural and municipal workers union, teachers unions and railroad workers unions, in Tottori. Tottori, which faces Nihon Sea in western Japan, is a demographically minor prefecture with slightly over 610,000 of population. Of which 320,000 are active workers according to the 1995 census. The primary industry accounts for 14 % in terms of working population, while the secondary and tertiary industries represent 30% and 56%, respectively. As for the organization size, enterprises with more than 100 employees account for only slightly more than 5% in the combined enterprises, which means that virtually all the workers work for small-sized or micro enterprises.

There are 245,000 employees in Tottori Prefecture, of which only 55,000 are organized, which are behind overt or covert violation of unorganized workers' rights. Labor accidents increased in number by 14.3% to 790 in 1998 from 691 in 1997 with increment of 9 deaths, although the downward trend in number of labor accidents seem to be suggestive of successful OSH efforts in the Prefecture since 1988, when 1010 cases were counted.

First, consulting activities

TOSHC has a permanent officer who routinely receive and give advice to inquiries and requests concerning labor accident cases and their compensations, and other OSH issues. Several professionals including 6 physicians can counsel, as needed. Specifically, the organization annually establishes an ad hoc hot line on karoshi (overwork death) in an independent effort to uncover potential victims within the Prefeucture. In addition, we participate in JOSHRC's nationwide hot line campaigns on visual display terminal work and occupational diseases. The Center also help the Prefecutral trade union confederation develop hot line service for workers on the OSH area.

Beyond the OSH problems

We have been receiving more and more complaints about unfair dismissal, wage reduction and other labor problems. To solve these disputes, we negotiate with the employers. In 1997, we opened a two-day hot line campaign over workplace bullying in collaboration with the nationwide move and received as many as 37 calls. These complaints suggest the urgent need of community-based general unions, which seems to be effective rather than advisory activities and official interventions.

Communications and education

We publish a bulletin "Anzen-eisei (Safety and Health)" quarterly to provide the members with information about labor unions' OHS initiatives and topical environment problems within the Prefecture. Also we give a set of OSH seminars, which cover relevant statutory regulations, ergonomics, working environment, mental health promotion and healthy VDT operations. During the 4 or 5-day period of seminars, about 25 people annually participate in the group discussion, guided visits on the working places and workshops on workplace improvement. Our next goal is to provide such seminars for workers in specific professions.

* He is now 68 years old. He is working virtually on a volunteer basis, taking advantage of his retirement pension. He has a background as enthusiastic activist in the OHS area : when he was active (of course he is still active!), he successfully negotiated the Prefetural OSH rules and OSH committee with the Prefectural authorities, and won a landmark occupational disease certification for a vibration disease victim who had used a grass cutting machine during his road maintenance operations.

JOSHRC NEWSLETTER No.19 (July, 1999)

Japan Occupational Safety and Health Resource Center (JOSHRC)
Z Bldg. 5F, 7-10-1 Kameido, Koto-ku, Tokyo 136-0071, Japan
FAX: 81-3-3636-3881