The Ohara Memorial Institute for Science of Labour
The Ohara Memorial Institute for
Science of Labour

Outline of ISL

The Ohara Memorial Institute for Science of Labour (ISL) was founded in 1921 in Kurashiki, about 700 km west of Tokyo, by Mr. Magosaburo Ohara, President of the Kurashiki Textile Company. It has since been active with its unique applied research activities addressing workplace and working life issues. With its about 20 staff members in 2017, it is a leading research institute in human work sciences, occupational health and safety, ergonomics and social life studies in Asia.

The Institute is an independent non-profit-making research body under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. About 500 support members including many private enterprises and relevant organizations contribute to the institute's budget. The rest of the income comes from research contracts and publications.

Research by the institute focuses on ways and means of making work and workplace decent based on multidisciplinary studies, encompassing a wide range of disciplines such as medicine, psychology, ergonomics, engineering, economics and sociology. The general aim is to find scientific and practical solutions for actual problems in work, working conditions and working life of people in various economic sectors. A bulk of field studies are planned and carried out in a large variety of industries, services and agricultural farms.

Current research topics include analysis of job characteristics, better work and equipment designs, ergonomic workplace arrangements, safe work practices, assessment of work environment, prevention of occupational diseases and work-related disorders, work organization, equality in employment and working life problems of workers with diversifying life styles. Over 100 research contracts are carried out each year at the request of government agencies, private enterprises, trade unions and research and training organizations.

The institute publishes two monthly periodicals: the "Journal of Science of Labour" with English summaries and "Rodo no kagaku (Digest of Science of Labour)" for practitioners. So far about 100 monographs were published. The best-sellers of the institute include "Modern Occupational Health Handbook" written by 200 experts, action-oriented training manuals and guidance books.

International technical cooperation is pursued through fellowship programmes and joint research projects in collaboration with counterpart institutions in some Asian countries.

When the Institute celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1996, an International Symposium on Common Strategies for Human-Centred Work was held. We also celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2011. Within the framework of its commemorative activities, the Japanese version of the International Labour Office Encyclopedia of Occupational Health and Safety is published. We, The Institute for Science of Labour is preparing the forthcoming 100th anniversary in 2021.


Characteristics of the Institute's activity

The Institute is characterized by the multidisciplinary nature of its research work and its close relation with industry. As major part of the research, a number of field studies and experiments are carried out each year on the basis of contracts made with government agencies, private enterprises and labour unions. Teamwork of the research staff from different disciplines is maintained throughout the research programmes. Particular care is given to effective workplace-level improvements for decent work and workplace. The research programmes are closely connected with training and information services of the Institute.


Organization of the Institute

The Foundation of The Ohara Memorial Institute for Science of Labour (ISL) is steered by the Board of Directors which consists of representatives from academic, public, industrial and labour circles. Mr. Jun Hamano is President of the Institute chairing the Board. Dr. Tsuneo Sakamoto is Director of the Institute. There are the research division, the big project division including international cooperation center, , the administrative and publication departments, the library and information center and the supporting members' bureau.

Thus the following is the composition of the Institute:

Division of Research

  • Systems Safety Research Group
  • Working Life and Fatigue Research Group
  • Diversity of Working Condition for Wokers Research Group

Division of Project Research Center

  • International Cooperation Center
  • Chronic Fatigue Reserch Center
  • Ergonomics Research Center
  • Mental Health Research Center

Division of Others

  • Administrative Department
  • Publication Department
  • Bureau of Supporting Members