Occupational Physician in Japan – All you need to know

Occupational Medicine In Japan – Does your work place have an Occupational Physician (産業医)?

Occupational physician In Japan might not be a term you are familiar with. Whether you just moved to Japan or have been living here for years, if you are an active member of the workforce the question of workplace medicine and health is sure to have crossed your mind at some point. Having said this, the first thing you think about is probably not, “I should look into my company’s occupational medicine situation”. In fact, it’s likely that most of us are not very familiar with the term at all, but it will certainly be worth your time to find out more about access to occupational physicians.

In today’s HealthTokyo article I’d like to introduce you to occupational medicine in Japan and how you can benefit from it.

What is occupational medicine in Japan?

Occupational medicine is a branch of medicine dealing with the overall health and maintenance of health in the workplace. Occupational physicians have the goal is to prevent and treat many types of diseases associated with workplaces that may affect a working population.
Formerly known as industrial medicine, occupational medicine has its roots in treating injuries or diseases found among production workers. In today’s world, occupational medicine has spread across all industries aiding those who work at factories and offices alike.

What is an occupational physician (産業医)?

Occupational medicine is practiced by an occupational physician or “産業医(Sangyoushi)” in Japanese. Unlike other medical professionals, an occupational physician’s duties span a wide range of topics and are not restricted to providing immediate medical attention. The basis of the profession is concerned with the relationship between health and the workplace.
Occupational physicians are unique in that they deal with populations and public health, in addition to individual patients. Their goal is to evaluate and manage working populations, and prevent exposure to dangerous environments.

Thus, an occupational physician is required to have knowledge and understanding of the specific workplace environment where they are employed and any risks associated with it. They must also be qualified to determine both the physical and emotional health of employees, be able to diagnose and treat environmental and occupational diseases and injuries associated with their workplace, manage and carry out health services, be familiar with rehabilitation methods, health education techniques, sanitation, and worker’s compensation laws, all in addition to being able to organize and deliver health services to employees.

Are there laws surrounding occupational medicine in Japan?

When it comes to occupational medicine in Japan, any company with over 50 employees is required to hire an occupational physician under the Japanese Industrial Safety and Health Law. If a company’s employees should number over 3,000, there must be at least two or more occupational physicians to correctly oversee the work environment.

 What does it mean to have an occupational physician?

If you work at a mid-size to large company in Japan, you should have access to your company’s occupational physician. Some of the benefits of having an occupational physician at your work place include:

(1) Medical examinations and follow up work
(2) Health consultations and recommendations
(3) Health education and other provisions in order to maintain and enhance
the health of employees
(4) Medical measures in order to establish the cause and prevent the
re-occurrence of employees’ health problems
(5) Work place inspections per schedule agreed in advance
(6) Statutory health and safety report(s) completion and/or filing
(7) Attend regular health committee meetings per schedule agreed in advance

What to do if your company does not have an occupational physician?

If the company you work is just starting out, or has less than 50 employees, you might not have access to an on-site occupational physician. Perhaps your company does have an occupational physician, but they don’t speak English and your Japanese isn’t quite at a medical conversation level yet. This should not stop you from seeking medical attention regarding your work environment however.
If you relate to the situation above, you can always book an appointment with an English-speaking doctor through the HealthyTokyo appointment service to discuss any issues you may be experiencing due to your work.


Conclusion

While occupational medicine may not be a household word, knowing whether you have an occupational physician at your workplace comes with perks. Being able to take advantage of an occupational physician’s in depth knowledge of your workplace-specific health needs can save you a lot of time and grief.
Even if your company in Japan doesn’t provide occupational medicine, you should still look make sure your work is not having a negative effect on your health, so please don’t hesitate to take advantage of HealthyTokyo’s aforementioned appointment service for English speaking medical attention. If you have any questions about the appointment service, please make use of the site chat feature on the bottom right of the page.

Before you go, just remember:

  • Occupational medicine in Japan deals with the health and maintenance of health in the workplace.
  • Any Japanese company with over 50 employees is required by law to have an occupational physician.
  • An occupational physician provides physician health consultations and medical examinations with follow up work, amongst other helpful services.

References:

What is OEM?

http://www.acoem.org/OccMed.aspx

What Is Occupational Medicine and What Do Occupational Medicine Specialists Do?

https://web.archive.org/web/20060926173940/http://www.sfms.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Home&CONTENTID=1524&TEMPLATE=%2FCM%2FHTMLDisplay.cfm&SECTION=Article_Archives

日本医者会:産業医とは

http://jmaqc.jp/sang/occupational_physician/

厚生労働省:産業医について ~その役割を知ってもらうために~

http://www.mhlw.go.jp/new-info/kobetu/roudou/gyousei/anzen/dl/080123-1a.pdf

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