South Africa's Occupational Health and Safety Policy and Legislation: A brief overview.

Most of South Africa’s occupational health and safety policy and legislation is in compliance with most of the provisions of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 155 (1981) (Jeebhay M and Jacobs, 2009). In this article we briefly outline South Africa’s occupational health legislation and policy, we then do a comparison between the South African occupational health legislative framework and that of Botswana and describe the lessons that these two countries can learn from each other.
In South Africa there are predominantly four pieces of legislation which govern Occupational Health. The Occupational Health and Safety Act, Act 85 of 1993. This act is responsible for ensuring the health and safety of persons at work and the health and safety of those who may be affected by health and safety hazards arising from work activities. This act is also there to provide for the health and safety of persons in connection with the use of plant and machinery. The act also advocates f…

Occupational Exposure Limits: What are they and what do they mean?

By Mfanimpela Godfrey Kubheka
What every employer and employee needs to know about Occupational Exposure Limits (OELs).
Any substance or mixture of substances that may be toxic, harmful, irritant, corrosive, asphyxiant for which an occupational exposure limit is prescribed or an occupational exposure limit is not prescribed but there is sufficient scientific (toxicological and epidemiological information to be specific) to deem it hazardous to human health is a hazardous chemical substance or agent (HCS). There are many hazardous chemical substances in industry today than there were in the 19th century; however many of these chemicals do not have any occupational exposure limits prescribed for them, the information used to set the existing occupational exposure limits can sometimes be incomplete (AIHA,2006) and each year the number of new hazardous chemical substances that enter the market and somehow end up in the lungs, blood stream and other vital organs of workers keeps on growin…


Courtesy of the ICCM, 2016
For many years scholars and professionals have debated and raised the issue of an existing propensity in the occupational health sector to prioritize safety over health. The first visionary principle towards zero harm for workers in the mining and metals sector is based on the fact that an organization must develop a culture whereby equal importance is given to issues of occupational health and safety so that the prevention of occupational disease is as important to the organization as the prevention of safety incidents (ICCM, 2009:4). This means for example; noise-induced hearing loss cases will be treated with equal importance as hand injuries. The second aspect is based on the fact that an organization needs to do its ultimate best to ensure that there are no repeats of any occupational disease cases within the entire organization (ICCM, 2009:4). This means that for example, the organization will monitor the incidence and prevalence of occupational disease…

Occupational Hygiene (OH) and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

(Image credit: Pam Bobitt, Shutterstock/Sarah Holmlund)

There is no doubt that advancements in technology have a huge impact on life as we know it. Occupational hygiene as a field is no exception to these advancements. From real time-measurements and monitoring to confined space air monitoring using drones; it is clear that technology is re-shaping how we do things in occupational hygiene. The great advancements in technology especially those that have to do with the use artificial intelligence promise a future that one could have never imagined ten years ago. As an occupational hygiene specialist I find it exciting to be part of a generation that is experiencing some of these great advancements. There are two which are of particular interest to me; these are, real-time exposure monitoring and predictive analytics. The healthcare industry has already managed to develop robots that can make a medical diagnosis with reasonable accuracy levels that one could not think of in the past ten …


Legal requirements as per the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Act 85 of 1993 and its regulations:
Image credit: envorocare,2014

All employers whose workforce is exposed to or has a potential to be exposed to health hazards emanating from the workplace which may cause adverse health impacts, take note of the following:

1. A Health Risk Assessment must be conducted to assess the risk of exposure of their employees to occupational hygiene stressors such as noise, hazardous chemical substances and ergonomics.

2. An Occupational Hygiene Program must then developed, implemented, maintained and reviewed based on the results of the Health Risk Assessment.

3. Where the Health Risk Assessment and the subsequent Occupational Hygiene Program indicate a need for monitoring, the employer must ensure that such monitoring is conducted for the relevant occupational hygiene stressors and the results are communicated to the affected parties. N: B: The monitoring/survey (for regulated activities) sha…

Hearing Loss Prevention goes beyond a Hearing Loss Prevention Programme.


The primary aim of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Act 85 of 1993 according to its preamble is to ensure that that employers "provide for the health and safety of persons at work and for the health and safety of persons in connection with the use of plant and machinery; the protection of persons other than persons at work against hazards to health and safety arising out of or in connection with activities of persons at work; to establish an advisory council for occupational health and safety; and to provide for matters connected therewith". Noise is one of the most common occupational hazards (Gerges, et al., 2001:103) which is damaging to industrial health (Kim et al., 2010:10) and even though great advances have been made in hearing protection technology, hearing conservation programs (HCP) alone are not sufficient to deal with noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) and cannot be a substitute for proper engineering controls (Suter, 2012:24…

The importance of a health risk assessment in the prevention of occupational disease and illness.

Image credit: hsph.havard,edu
It is ironic how companies think occupational disease prevention is expensive, but can settle for paying high costs for the compensation of occupational diseases, insurance premiums, fines and other legal costs. Insurance companies conduct risk assessments and based on their findings determine the premiums that have to be paid by the potential client. Banks do same when they have to lend money to their clients and yet to this day there are still companies that are of the view that they can do well in business and be socially responsible without performing any health risk assessments for their work environment. Such companies are happy with spending money on personal protective equipment and training that is not relevant to their worker exposure and in most cases inefficient in offering any protection to their employees. A health risk assessment is like a diagnostic test for a car that needs repairs or service. Without a proper health risk assessment, a co…