Thursday 28 April is World Day for Safety and Health at Work

After the Freedom Day public holiday on 27 April, where many South Africans took a breather from work to de-stress a little, today the world reflects on Safety and Health at Work. This year the theme is Workplace Stress – a collective challenge.  As pointed out by the UN – many workers are facing greater pressure to meet the demands of modern working life. Psychosocial risks such as increased competition, higher expectations on performance and longer working hours are contributing to the workplace becoming an ever more stressful environment. Work-related stress is now generally acknowledged as a global issue affecting all countries, all professions and all workers both in developed and developing countries.

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Construction work is inherently dangerous.  In South Africa this is reflected in the alarming incident and accident statistics in the construction industry.

Grayston BridgeUnsafe conditions are only a contributing factor in 10% of incidents experienced – it is employee actions or lack of correct actions that contribute to 88% of all incidents. Health and safety is everyone’s responsibility from the CEO to the construction site.

The publicity around the official enquiry into the October 2015 collapse of the Grayston Drive pedestrian bridge on Gauteng’s M1 highway has hit news headlines in recent weeks. This incident was responsible for the deaths of two people while a further 19 were injured.  Current commentary suggests that lack of correct actions may have been the reason for the tragedy.  The Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) told the inquiry that a set of bolts on the scaffolding had not been installed and that M&R representatives had decided that the missing bolts would not affect the structure. The next inquiry session will take place between April 19 and 21.  No matter the final outcome of this incident, a key message for business SA will be that upholding health and safety is a culture that needs to be entrenched.

In the greater scheme of things, two construction workers are killed every week and anecdotal evidence indicates that employees acting unsafely is the cause of 80% of accidents, resulting in injuries or damage to equipment.

Unfortunately, this suggests that the Occupational Health and Safety Act’s Construction Regulations have not yet had the desired effect on achieving and maintaining acceptable health and safety standards in the construction industry.

Collective weight

“Existing poor health and safety trends may be highlighting the fact that until government, organized labour and construction employers commit to urgently implementing the requirements of legislation and the recommendations set out in the Construction Health and Safety Accord, this disturbing rate of attrition in the construction industry is unlikely to be reversed,” says Dr Robin George, OCSA’s Chief Occupational Medicine Consultant. “Role players need to avoid any further delay in meeting their responsibilities to build a culture of safety.”

The problem is often exacerbated when it comes to SMMEs.  There are limited resources to provide for health and safety by small and emerging contractors.  The pressure is on however, as larger construction organisations need the compliance of smaller service providers before they can allow them to work on-site.  OCSA has seen a trend where larger organisations are finding that outsourcing to a professional partner such as OCSA is more economical than running their own in-house clinics.”  This compliance is good news for the industry particularly as the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1993 states that construction cannot go ahead if health and safety regulations are not in place.

Apart from the legal and social responsibility ramifications, health and safety incidents in the workplace also have financial implications.  This should put health and safety issues as well as proper training and management at the top of the priority list for employers and employees.

Training trends

In 2015, OCSA experienced a 10% increase in international training interest from African countries. Seventy percent (70%) of OCSA’s training at its Academy of Excellence is for short courses.  The remaining 30% demand is for the Occupational Health Diploma.  There is a 20% increase in demand each year for this diploma, as more school leavers are becoming interested in the medical field, and OH in particular.

“The introduction to Occupational Health and Safety is key to any organisation’s safety. If employees are not trained in the basic principles of Health and Safety, the environment, and how to protect themselves and fellow workers, the company is likely to pay the price with accidents and injuries,” says OCSA’s OH Diploma training and Quality Manager, Alta Kruger.  OCSA offers an introductory course targeted at all employees.  The OH and Safety Act is covered as well as legal duties and hazards that have the potential to effect health and safety in the working environment.


OCSA offers Medical Surveillance solutions in accordance with the Occupational Health and Safety Construction Regulations:

Regulation 7(1)(g) a Principal contractor must…

(g)  ensure that all his or her employees have a valid medical certificate of fitness specific to the construction work to be performed and issued by an occupational health practitioner in the form of Annexure 3.

Regulation 7(8):

(8)  A contractor must ensure that all his or her employees have a valid medical certificate of fitness specific to the construction work to be performed and issued by an occupational health practitioner in the form of Annexure 3.


This was nothing short of an OCSA-lympian effort – the day our KZN Occupational Medicine Practitioner, Dr Rakesh Goordeen acquired his qualification as a Designated Aviation Medical Examiner.

The course is run at The Institute for Aviation Medicine under the auspices of the South African Military Health Services and the University of Pretoria. It is a compacted theory and practical two-week session with months of pre-reading.

The impressive bit is this:  besides having to know more physics than clinical medicine, Dr Goordeen was unceremoniously hoisted down from; and then up towards an Oryx army helicopter with just a chest strap (accompanied by that familiar yet unwelcome force of gravity working against the effort).

“The simulations in an Airbus 380 were absolutely amazing,” says the good Doctor, “that is until they chucked us down the emergency chute as would occur in a real water crash landing. We are talking friction burns – felt even through your chinos!”

“Having an uncle who flew sorties in the Indian Air Force in World War 2 has always been in the corner of my eye. But for now I’ll leave the flying to the birds!”

Certificates were received on 19 February 2016. “Extremely” well done!

Dr Rakesh Goordeen stands beside an Agusta A109, used in the Mozambican flood relief as a transport helicopter for the SAAF. It can accommodate six medics or divers in a rescue mission."

Dr Rakesh Goordeen stands beside an Agusta A109, used in the Mozambican flood relief as a transport helicopter for the SAAF. It can accommodate six medics or divers in a rescue mission.”

We salute you back Dr Goordeen – OCSA is thrilled with your achievement and the sport you went through to earn the title!

We salute you back Dr Goordeen – OCSA is thrilled with your achievement and the sport you
went through to earn the title!


First Aid burn kit – a 1st for South African aluminium smelter

Burnshield kitMetal “pops” and spills can cause severe burns to those working in smelters and is an obvious risk when working with hot liquid metal. Sometimes patients can take longer than a year to heal from an incident.  OCSA Medic Manager, Chad Jones came up with an innovative solution to treat this occupational health hazard. By giving treatment quickly and safely in a First Aid situation, the recovery period will be considerably sooner vs. long months of treatment.

 Trendsetting innovation

Jones, in conjunction with a company called Burnshield Emergency Care, developed a cartridge where the special Burnshield gel inside provides instant healing and soothing benefits to the burn patient. The recovery process is much shorter when using the gel during initial treatment of burn injuries. It cools the metal down quicker – reducing the burn area, assisting in pain treatment of the burn and promoting healing instantly.

First Aid Burn Kit – a 1st for South32

OCSA client, resources company, South 32 owns and operates Hillside Aluminium Smelter in Richard’s Bay, KZN and is extremely safety conscious.
OCSA runs the on-site clinic and launched the special “First Aid Burn Kit Bag” in November 2015. It contains
specialised gel-filled cartridges, which will be issued to Hillside’s Casthouse as well as the Reduction and Carbon departments where spills occur from time to time. OCSA demonstrated how the gel stops any burning immediately and starts Burnshield teammedicating and soothing the injury while burn victims wait for trained paramedics to arrive on the scene. “When it comes down to ease of use and making a real difference, there is currently nothing better on the market to treat burns in an emergency,” says Jones.

How it works

  • In the unlikely event of a foot or leg burn, the nozzle head is torn off at the top of the cartridge and will be ready for use.
  • The gel is then squeezed into a boot or over the burn area (the entire body if necessary).

Muzi Ndaba, former Manager Reduction, said: “This is so good to see. Thanks to the OCSA Clinic team for a sterling job. This has now started at Hillside and I can see it being deployed throughout South32.”

Burnshield Chad

Innovative OCSA Medic Manager, Chad Jones gives an explanation of the burn kits at the launch to client, South32.










Medical Surveillance @ Work

OCSA sweeps the landscape on why it is vital

By Dr Robin George, OCSA’s Chief Occupational Medicine Consultant

Despite the digital age, it is still the workers as a collective group, that are regarded as a company’s most valuable asset. The latest figures from StatsSA for Q3 of 2015 reflect that there are over 8.9 m workers employed in the formal non-agricultural sector of the SA economy.

An important tool to enable any business to keep a pulse on the individual and collective health of its workers is “medical surveillance” (MS). It’s all about preventing occupational diseases and managing workers with established occupational diseases.

Secondary prevention

Med Surv SecondaryMedical surveillance programs provide the framework for companies to periodically assess workers’ health.

The main objective is to detect health problems as early as possible.  By doing this, appropriate interventions can be put in place to manage the   problems.

Medical Surveillance is a core practice in occupational health

Medical surveillance should be broadened to establish a baseline health status for individual workers so that future deviations can be compared.
The relationship between health and work is multi-faceted. For workers to perform at their best, they have to meet the physical and psychological requirements of the job.

  • Performing certain tasks may be impacted if workers have pre-existing health problems e.g. diabetes, hypertension, epilepsy.OMINI-MEDICO
  • Work may aggravate existing health problems e.g. stress on hypertension; confined spaces on pregnancy.
  • Exposure to health hazards in the workplace may result in occupational diseases e.g. noise induced hearing loss, pneumoconiosis (a lung disease caused by inhaled dust particles), dermatitis (skin rash).

Companies also need to be aware of the statutory requirements to perform health assessments on workers e.g. NIHL, HCS, HBA, asbestos and lead regulations.

Med Surv contribution