ICOH2018 Congress



Claudina Nogueira, on behalf of SASOM, SAIOH, SASOHN and MMPA

e-mail: claudinanogueira@hotmail.com; cmcanogueira@gmail.com

Claudina Nogueira holds the following positions:

• ICOH Vice President: Scientific Committees

• WHWB Board Member

• SASOM ExCo Member

• SAIOH Council Member

• Project/Data Manager – Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa



The International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH) was established in Milan, Italy in 1906 (initially as the Permanent Commission on Occupational Health).The triennial Congress is the flagship activity of ICOH, having become one of the largest world congresses, bringing together practitioners of occupational health and safety, across various disciplines, to share expertise, experiences and knowledge. Today, ICOH is the world’s leading international scientific society in the field of occupational health, with a membership in excess of 2 000 professionals from 93 countries.

ICOH’s main objective is to foster the scientific progress, knowledge and development of occupational health and safety. ICOH has 37 Scientific Committees (SCs) and four Working Groups (WGs), most of which hold their own symposia, conferences and workshops; produce scientific monographs; and review the abstracts that are submitted to the International Congresses. Midterm meetings are held in the periods between the ICOH Congresses, which are attended by the ICOH Officers, Board Members, and the Chairs of the SCs and WGs, with the aim of discussing the ongoing activities of ICOH, and the progress made in terms of the ICOH work plan for the specific triennium. ICOH is recognised by the United Nations as a non-governmental organisation and has close working relationships with the International Labour Organization (ILO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the International Social Security Association (ISSA).

The 32nd International Congress on Occupational Health (ICOH2018) took place from 29 April to 4 May 2018, at the state-of-the-art and ultra-modern Convention Centre Dublin (CCD) in Ireland, located at Spencer Dock on the banks of the River Liffey.

The ICOH2018 Congress which was themed ‘Occupational Health and Wellbeing: Linking Research to Practice’, was organised by ICOH and the Faculty of Occupational Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. It was supported by a range of organisations, including the Irish Health and Safety Authority, the Irish Society of Occupational Medicine, the Occupational Hygiene Society of Ireland, the Occupational Health Nurses Association of Ireland, the Irish Society of Toxicology, and the Irish Ergonomics Society, among others, and the professional conference organisers, Conference Partners International.



The ICOH Board meetings (for members of the previous and new triennia, 2015-2018 and 2018-2021) were held during the weekends before and after the ICOH2018 Congress, at the CCD and the building housing the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.

The newly elected ICOH Officers and Board Members for the new triennium (2018-2021) were announced at the ICOH2018 Congress.



President - Dr Jukka Takala (Finland); Secretary General - Prof. Sergio Iavicoli (Italy); Vice President - Ms Claudina Nogueira: Scientific Committees portfolio (South Africa); Vice President - Dr Seong-Kyu Kang: National Secretaries portfolio (Republic of Korea); and Past President - Dr Kazutaka Kogi (Japan).


Board Members

Prof. Maureen Dollard (Australia), Prof. Frida Marina Fischer (Brazil), Prof. Mats Hagberg (Sweden), Dr Martin Hogan (Ireland), Prof. Seichi Horie (Japan), Dr Sunil Kumar Joshi (Nepal), Dr Eun-A Kim (Republic of Korea), Prof. Stavroula Leka (UK), Dr Olivier Lo (Singapore), Dr Rosa Maria Orriols Ramos (Spain), Prof. Christophe Paris (France), Dr Shyam Pingle (India), Prof. Kari Reijula (Finland), Dr Paul A Schulte (USA), Ms Maria Luisa Tupia Gonzales (Peru), and Prof. Francesco Saverio Violante (Italy).



Very few cities have enjoyed the honour and privilege of hosting the ICOH Congress more than once. Dublin is one such city, having hosted the ICOH Congress in 1984, and again in 2018. Dublin is the capital city of Ireland, a small island located on the western edge of Europe, which has captured the hearts of thousands of visitors over centuries. The ‘Emerald Isle’ has diverse and astonishing landscapes that range from the stark and rugged beauty of the west coast (the Wild Atlantic Way), to sleepy seaside villages and long sandy beaches, and the lively cities of Dublin, Cork and Galway, brimming with history, culture and excitement. County Kerry is home to the beautiful Lakes of Killarney and windswept peninsulas; County Cork is renowned for its seafood specialities; and County Clare is well known for its unique limestone geology that gives rise to the eerie landscape named ‘The Burren’. Further afield, in Northern Ireland, one encounters numerous castle ruins, expansive loughs (lakes), and the world-famous Giant’s Causeway, an area of close to 40 000 interlocking columns of basalt, the result of an ancient volcanic fissure eruption.

Founded by the Vikings over a thousand years ago, and first named from two words meaning Black Pool (Dubh Lynn), Dublin evolved through the Middle Ages and Georgian Era to become one of the friendliest and most fashionable capitals of Europe. It is a modern and hard-working centre of commerce and industry, and it is a cultural capital. Trinity College is Ireland’s oldest university. It was founded in 1592 and famous alumni include the writers Jonathan Swift and Oscar Wilde. More recent graduates include three Irish Presidents and four Nobel Prize winners. The College’s famous Library building dates back to the early 18th century and has approximately 200 000 volumes in the Long Room gallery. Its most famous treasure is the Book of Kells, a splendid illustrated gospel from around the year 800. This manuscript of Celtic Christian art has been at Trinity College since 1661, and is bound in four volumes; two are on permanent display, with the pages turned regularly. Other important Irish objects in the Long Room include the Book of Durrow (another handwritten and hand-illustrated gospel manuscript) and the medieval ‘Brian Boru’ harp, the model for Ireland’s national symbol.

Dublin is a city about which everyone raves. It is a remarkably small and compact city, best experienced on foot. The centre comprises a few manageably-sized neighbourhoods which are bisected by the River Liffey. Within this contained and charming city, one finds historic buildings housing museums and art galleries, medieval cathedrals, a range of architectural treasures, and green spaces and quiet squares. Dublin is equally known for its lively pubs, shops and restaurants, theatres, music venues, and its literary heritage. The multitude of pubs range from old-style traditional bars to modern-themed establishments; most sell meals and many offer music and other performances as entertainment.

The city’s background of brewing and distilling are equally significant, with its beers and whiskies internationally acclaimed. The Guinness Storehouse is one of Dublin’s most popular tourist attractions. It was founded in 1759 by Sir Arthur Guinness and, today, the much expanded site at St James’ Gate can produce three million pints of stout a day. The Old Jameson Distillery is in Bow Street. Jameson, one of Ireland’s most famous whiskey brands, operated out of this site from 1780 to 1991, when it moved to Cork. The Bow Street premises were then turned into a whiskey museum and visitors’ centre, offering tours of the distilling process and whiskey tasting.



The number of ICOH2018 participants was 2 236 (of whom 750 were physicians), representing approximately 114 countries on six continents:

• ICOH member participants: 966

• Non-ICOH member participants: 1 086

• Exhibitors: 64

• Accompanying persons: 120

• Participants by gender: male (57%); female (43%)

• Top 10 countries (in terms of number of participants): Ireland (162), United States (123), Japan (122), Finland (114), United Kingdom (110), Australia (99), Germany (84), Brazil (79), Italy (78), Belgium (74)

• International participation: Europe (49%), Asia (23%), USA and Canada (9%), South America (8%), Africa (6%), Australasia (5%)

• Parallel Sessions: special sessions (106), abstract sessions (90), presentations (852), and more than 300 hours of educational content

• Abstracts: submitted (1 734), accepted (1 682), student posters (76)

• Abstracts by continent: Europe (701), Asia (448), South America (186), North America (160), Africa (132), Australasia (29)

• Abstracts by session: keynote/plenary (11); semi-plenary (32); policy forum (10); special sessions (489); oral sessions (363); poster sessions (777)

• Keynote and plenary speakers by continent: Europe (4), Asia (3), Africa (1), Australia (1), North America (1), South America (1)

• Semi-plenary speakers by continent: Europe (13), Asia (10), North America (4), Africa (2), Australia (2), South America (1)

• Financial Assistance Statistics: free registration (33), free registration, accommodation and airfare (25), free registration and accommodation (22), free registration and airfare (3)



The Congress was extremely well organised and efficiently run in a superb venue, exceptionally well located in Dublin, with very competent and pleasant assistance from the members of the Irish organising entities throughout the event and all its associated activities. Special mention and thanks go to Dr Martin Hogan, President of the ICOH2018 Congress; Prof. Ken Addley OBE, Chair of the ICOH2018 Congress Local Scientific Committee; and Dr Marilyn Fingerhut, ICOH Vice President for Scientific Committees (2015-2018), for her dedicated support and sterling assistance. Congratulations to you all, and your tireless teams, for your valuable contributions to the success of the ICOH2018 Congress.

The 37 SCs within ICOH and the four WGs were instrumental in drawing up the framework of the scientific programme, which ensured that all the topics chosen were the appropriate ones to address the occupational health and safety concerns of workers and practitioners. In addition, there were 17 sessions which were proposed and organised by the Irish Faculty of Occupational Medicine. The ICOH2018 Congress was accredited by the European Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (EACCME) for 28 European CME credits. The Business Meetings of the SCs and WGs, as well as other non-ICOH organisations (by prior request and arrangement), were held in the evenings, after the official Congress programme on most days; there were in excess of 60 Business Meetings held during the Congress week. Cardinus Risk Management, one of the exhibitors at the Congress, sponsored a Student and Early Career/Experienced Experts Networking Lunch on Friday 4 May, which gave participants the opportunity to find others who share their interests at tables hosted by representatives of each of the ICOH SCs.

The Congress scientific programme was of a very high standard, with numerous presentations and parallel sessions throughout the five days - too many to mention. The presentations and sessions alluded to here are examples of offerings that resonated with various members of the South African sister organisations in occupational health who participated in the Congress, and who have contributed to this report. Inputs were received from 13 contributors representing The South African Society of Occupational Medicine (SASOM), the Southern African Institute for Occupational Hygiene (SAIOH), the South African Society of Occupational Health Nursing Practitioners (SASOHN), and the Mine Medical Professionals Association (MMPA).

Within the Congress theme, a strong underlying concept of inter-sectoral collaboration permeated the presentations, from plenaries to workshops. This approach extended beyond the usual occupational health interdisciplinary partnership to broader domains, such as politics, economics, public health, and resource management, all of which impinge on health and wellbeing in the workplace.

The keynote speaker at the opening ceremony on Sunday 29 April, Dr Kurt Straif from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC, France), set the scene regarding occupational causes of cancer (e.g. chemicals, complex mixtures, occupational exposures, physical agents, biological agents, and lifestyle factors). He presented work from the IARC Monographs Programme, which addresses the burden of occupational cancer. The IARC Monographs Programme is the longest-running programme of cancer hazard identification, and is on the cutting edge of the latest scientific developments. The work identifies environmental factors that can increase the risk of human cancer. Governments and national health authorities are encouraged to use the IARC Monographs to support their actions to prevent exposure to potential carcinogens. The IARC research work is available from http://monographs.iarc.fr/.

The powerful Congress opening address by Dr Gerry Eijkemans of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO, Mexico) on Monday 30 April, set the scene by focussing on the vital importance of workers’ health to advance the United Nations’ 2030 sustainability agenda, and highlighting the interaction of social and environmental determinants of health on workers’ health. She presented the latest alarming statistics from the ILO which were repeated by other presenters during the Congress: “Work-related fatal injuries and diseases have increased to 2.78 million per year, increasing the global cost of the failure to adequately address occupational safety and health concerns to an estimated 3.94% of global GDP per year”. In addition, she emphasised that, even now, only 15% of workers worldwide have access to specialised occupational health services. The 2030 sustainability agenda seeks to reduce poverty and increase equity. Dr Eijkemans stressed that these goals, although very ambitious, can be achieved through a global focus on people resources, “by implementing public policies that improve employment conditions and health of workers, through a very close coordination among government agencies responsible for health, labour, social security and economic development, together with employers and workers’ organisations”. Approximately half of the world’s population still lives on the equivalent of around US $ 2 per day and, in many places, having a job does not guarantee an escape from poverty. To address this slow and inequitable progress across the world, a change in mindset is required, along with ways of retooling economic and social policies aimed at eradicating poverty.

 Prof. Bonnie Rogers from the University of North Carolina (USA) continued the theme of social and other influences on wellbeing in the workplace. She spoke eloquently on the evidence-based Total Worker Health® approach defined by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH, USA) as, “policies, programmes, and practices that integrate protection from work-related safety and health hazards with promotion of injury and illness prevention efforts to advance worker wellbeing”, and which aims to enhance health and productivity. As has been shown through research and translation into practice, “work-related hazards and unhealthy work environments can contribute to, or aggravate, health problems experienced by workers, such as sleep disorders, stress, depression and cardiovascular conditions”. The general concept of Total Worker Health® was presented and discussed in various sessions throughout the Congress, highlighting the emphasis that this concept places on leadership by management, policy framework, organisational design and work practices. A number of South African employers and occupational health service providers have already adopted, and are in the process of implementing, the Total Worker Health® approach.

The broad theme of ‘employee wellbeing’ was discussed in a number of presentations; an important stress point was that individual personal psychology, as a major influence on employee wellbeing, must be taken into consideration by occupational health practitioners.

Similarly, Hans-Horst Konkolewsky, Secretary General of the International Social Security Association (ISSA, Switzerland), voiced the need to promote a global prevention culture to reduce the number of occupational accidents and diseases, and outlined ISSA’s adoption of the prevention concept, ‘Vision Zero’, with the Seven Golden Rules to improve workplace safety and health performance. The ‘Vision Zero’ approach is flexible and can be adjusted to any workplace, company or industry. To date, over 700 companies in more than 90 countries have joined the ‘Vision Zero’ campaign since its launch in 2017.

 Prof. Vidhya Venugopal from Sri Ramachandra University in Chennai, India, presented a plenary titled ‘Climate variability impacts on occupational health – Research evidence and future steps’. She provided epidemiological evidence on seasonal studies conducted with workers engaged in moderate-to-heavy labour in 35 Indian workplaces, over an eight-year period. Her findings showed that above-normal sweat rate and urinary specific gravities, the rise in core body temperatures, and moderate dehydration, were very common, with a high prevalence of compromised renal health amongst exposed workers in certain occupations. There is a need to evaluate monitoring and interventions for workers who are exposed to heat stress, in the face of climate change, and particularly for vulnerable workers in the informal, agricultural, seafaring and mining sectors.

 Prof. Yue Leon Guo from the National Health Research Institutes of Taiwan, presented a plenary titled ‘Psychosocial conditions after occupational injury’, highlighting “the more than 300 million non-fatal occupational accidents that occur annually, requiring at least four days of absence from work”. It is well established that occupational injuries can lead to psychiatric disorders and psychological symptoms in affected workers. Those “with poorer psychological conditions had a lower probability of returning to work, and those who had disabilities of the upper or lower extremities tended to have higher mortality from self-harm later in life, when compared with the general population”. In cases of severe injury, psychological ailments became life-long disorders in many of the affected workers. He advised that over and above the primary prevention of occupational injuries, attention must be given to applying secondary and tertiary prevention measures, to minimise psychosocial impacts on worker health.

In the last plenary session of the Congress, Prof. Rodney Ehrlich presented the South African scenario exemplifying the socio-political and economic root of workers’ health and, in turn, of public health in his presentation, ‘When occupational health becomes public health: occupational lung disease in miners’. This elegant description of the interface between silica exposure, working and living conditions affecting tuberculosis (TB) in miners and the community, was a fitting climax to a week in which there had been ongoing prominence of the current global TB crisis and the role of ICOH.

The remaining four plenary presentations covered diverse topics: gene-environment interactions in occupational health; environmental impacts on worker health; the impact of migration on health and safety; and ‘connected’ workplace heath in the Irish context.

One of the highlights and a key event of the Congress was the expert Global Policy Forum with the theme ‘Preventing occupational cancer: global policies and strategy’. The Forum comprised contributions from many of the world’s leading health and safety organisations as well as international experts, including ICOH, ILO, WHO, ISSA and IARC, complemented by views from authorities from various regions. One of the presentations of the Global Policy Forum was delivered by Prof. David Rees from the South African National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH). A key message was that governments need to act through regulation to ban harmful substances, and that utilisation also needs strict regulation. Smoking, solar radiation, asbestos and diesel fumes were mentioned as cancer-causing agents. The Global Policy Forum encouraged audience participation via the ‘Conference App’. Its main objective was to develop proposals or principles as recommendations to reduce the burden of occupational cancer on humanity worldwide, and guidelines for professional organisations, such as ICOH, to provide support for efforts leading to improved prevention, control and management of occupational cancers. The Global Policy Forum also paved the way for the development of the ‘Dublin Statement on Occupational Health’, described later.

Dr Blánaid Hayes, the charming and charismatic Dean of the Faculty of Occupational Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, who also welcomed the delegates at the opening ceremony, gave a semi-plenary presentation titled ‘National survey of wellbeing of hospital doctors in Ireland’. Her research findings indicate “high levels of personal and workplace distress” in this occupational group, and suggest that “much needs to be done to highlight the importance of doctors’ wellbeing” in Ireland, with “self-stigmatisation being a barrier to early identification and treatment of mental health problems”. She stressed that occupational health services are well placed to help identify and address wellbeing issues in the medical fraternity.

A South African SASOM contribution by Prof. Mary Ross at a semi-plenary presentation on ‘Infections in the workplace: identifying problems and applying research to prevention’ concluded the last, surprisingly well-attended session of the Congress. Prof. Ross is an occupational medicine and public health medicine specialist, a SASOM honorary life member, and the Chair of the ICOH Working Group on Occupational Infectious Agents (WGOIA). She presented on occupationally-acquired infections, and detailed the elements that constitute primary and secondary prevention, particularly when workplace exposure is not recognised as the cause of infection. She stressed that it is “vital for the focus to extend beyond the workplace in collaboration with public healthcare to promote research, recognition, prevention and management of infectious diseases for all workers”.

Karen Michell, a member of Concept Safety Systems and a SASOHN Past President and honorary life member presented a semi-plenary titled ‘The quality and governance of occupational healthcare services in South Africa: what lessons for universal health coverage?’. She presented results from the research conducted for her PhD degree, which found that there are various models of occupational healthcare service delivery in South Africa with a wide range in level of quality, within a “fragmented and complex legislative framework”. She highlighted the longstanding challenges faced by occupational health professionals, particularly since occupational healthcare services “occupy a relatively low priority on the health reform agenda”. To make matters worse, there is a “lack of employer emphasis on occupational health”, and occupational health has been excluded from the universal health coverage system - the National Health Insurance (NHI) - that is under development in South Africa. Among her recommendations for improvement is “the need for nationally agreed upon standards for the delivery of occupational healthcare services, implemented through a cohesive structure which is cost effective, sustainable, and mandatory without marginalising small-to-medium service providers”.

For the majority of delegates, the greatest challenge was deciding which of the vast selection of simultaneous semi-plenaries, special sessions, oral papers, workshops and site visits to attend. In some cases, excellent presentations were poorly attended because of competing popular topics. For example, there were outstanding sessions on infectious diseases, disease classification, and surveillance that attracted very small numbers and raised the issue of whether or not there was too wide a choice. In these categories were some gems. Prof. David Koh described occupational malaria in Brunei Darussalam, a country listed as non-endemic for malaria because malaria cases are confined to soldiers who train in, and other security and forestry workers who enter, the densely forested areas and contract a simian, ‘occupational’ form of the disease.

A special session presented by five internationally recognised members of the ICOH WGOIA, chaired by Prof. Mary Ross, was described by one of the 50-strong audience as the best session he attended. The presentations in this special session, which was titled ‘Occupational infections: linking innovations and practice’, covered the following topics: the cost for occupationally-caused hepatitis C infection in health workers (Dr Albert Nienhaus, Germany); travel and the spread of infectious diseases (Dr Robert Orford, USA); immunisation policies and practices in occupational health: evidence and options from the literature and the field (Prof. Stefano Porru, Italy); occupational infectious agents in hospital facilities (Prof. Kari Reijula, Finland); and innovations in industrial hygiene approaches to infection control (Prof. Thomas Fuller, USA).

Likewise, two sessions on ‘The new ILO list of occupational diseases: guidance notes on diagnostic criteria for occupational diseases included in the ILO list’, were thought provoking and covered a wide range of issues related to national data collection and surveillance, the very basis of prioritising and evaluating progress in occupational health. Dr Linda Forst (USA) emphasised that the occupational health fraternity “must stay focussed on prevention” and that the important issues to consider were the source of (i.e. employers, workers or healthcare providers), the completeness of, and barriers to, reporting data. She described the deficiencies in reporting occupational disease relative to injuries, and the multiple sources of data in the United States. Speakers at the session directed those interested in surveillance to reviews and information on the site of Monitoring Occupational Diseases and Tracing New and Emerging Risks in a NETwork (www.modernet.org).

The converse of the poorly attended sessions was the inundation of participants in others, particularly when parallel sessions were cancelled. One such stimulating session was the semi-plenary ‘My truth is better than yours – how to fight back in the age of alternative facts’ given by Jani Ruotsalainen (Finland), the Managing Editor of the Cochrane Review Group who manages the systematic reviews of occupational health and safety topics (www.work.cochrane.org). His expertise with social media, webinars, podcasts, etc. is harnessed to promote evidence-based findings or ‘real’ facts and to counteract opinions and misleading ‘alternative facts’. He provided an outstanding explanation of the process of systematic reviews with examples such as the use of blunt surgical needles reducing the risk of exposure to blood, and the role of biases in research.

Staying with the theme of social media, Dr Max Lum, an e-communication and research translation senior advisor (NIOSH, USA), presented a semi-plenary titled ‘Digital Darwinism: what works for moving your information to engagement and impact - the good, the bad and the really ugly’. His main message was that “digital media is at the very heart of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and digital technology is evolving faster than organisations can adapt”. This “new constant connection has transformed the way we interact with each other and our target audiences”, including occupational health and safety professionals and employees in their working environments. He used ‘globally-derived data’ to discuss the use of well-known digital communication platforms and how these impact the global reach of occupational health and safety information, and contribute to “expanding the engagement with both health professionals and the general public”. He highlighted the advantages, challenges and pitfalls associated with advanced digital technology, and shared findings from various case studies to illustrate these points.

Within the special session titled ‘Accident prevention in practice or risk management?’ Dr Susan Michaelis (University of Stirling, Scotland) gave a presentation titled ‘Aerotoxic Syndrome: a new occupational disease?’ She spoke on adverse health effects experienced by aircrew exposed to aircraft-contaminated air, drawing from her experiences as an aviation inspector and ex-pilot who had her career abruptly changed 15 years ago when she developed debilitating neurological symptoms, termed ‘occupational aerotoxic syndrome’. This career drawback did not hinder her from investigating this unreported syndrome further, which then became the research area for her two postgraduate degrees in aviation health and safety. She shared the findings of a review of 15 incident reports where oil/fuel had caused an air quality change during transient engine operations (100%); the detection of ‘wet sock smell’ during climbs or descents (80%); and the realisation that 93% of these pilots had experienced various neurological forms of temporary impairment. In light of this evidence, she postulated that workers in the aviation, railway, mining, and forestry industries (where employees work in closed artificially-ventilated compartments) are not being adequately screened neurologically and psychologically for early detection and mitigation from permanent health effects, as part of their industry’s occupational surveillance programmes.

Very few Congress contributions reported on exposure to ionic radiation, electromagnetic radiation and extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields. In the special sessions dedicated to radiation and dermatoses, the work of Claudine Neumann and Dr Marc Wittlich (Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, German Social Accident Insurance) was noteworthy as it highlighted that risk assessment of electromagnetic fields in workplaces remains a neglected area, and that workers with medical implants are vulnerable. Most presentations addressed occupational exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation (sUVR); of significance is the number of large exposure studies conducted in Europe (e.g. Italy and Germany). With the focus on outdoor workers at risk of developing skin cancer, sUVR exposure studies have been carried out in numerous work sectors (agriculture, construction, transport, etc.), and even task-based exposure studies have been performed by making use of personal dosimetry (most noteworthy is the Genesis-UV system). Emphasis was placed on the need for countries to recognise occupational skin cancer as an occupational disease.

Within the special session on ‘Advances in biological monitoring’, Susanne Martinuzzi, a SHE Consultant from Springs, South Africa, presented an excellent case study highlighting how controls and interventions introduced at a lead nitrate plant succeeded in reducing workers’ blood lead levels (by 45% in 18 months) . Other presentations gave account of biological monitoring for solvents and polyaromatic hydrocarbons, in fire fighters and electric steel foundry workers, for example.

Within the session dedicated to occupational dermatoses, the main focus was on individual susceptibility to contact dermatitis, with specific mention of affected workers in the metals industry and the healthcare sector. Some advances in understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying the development of contact dermatitis have been made through the investigation of genetic and phenotypic biomarkers. Of interest is the involvement of the stratum corneum protein, filaggrin, which contributes to the mechanical strength of the skin, and its degradation products which are major constituents of natural moisturising factors (NMF) responsible for adequate skin hydration.

SASOHN members were very active at the Congress. Besides their own presentations and attendances at the Business Meeting of the ICOH SC on Occupational Health Nursing (SCOHN) held on Monday evening 30 April (21 members attended, including eight from Africa), they also attended the Business Meeting of other SCs, of which they are members, e.g. Education and Training, Toxicology, and Work Organisation and Psychosocial Factors (WOPS).

SCOHN organised a special session on Wednesday 2 May. The session was well attended and chaired by Prof. Susan Randolph (USA, SC Chair of the previous triennium) and Kim Davies (South Africa, SC Chair of the new triennium and SC Secretary of the previous triennium).

The first speaker in the SCOHN special session was Prof. Anne Drummond (Ireland) who presented a short overview of occupational health nursing in Ireland and its challenges in terms of educating practitioners. She indicated that the role of an occupational health nurse is varied and depended on many factors, such as legislation, geographical location, history and culture, industrial profile of hazards and risks, and how occupational health services are placed within the national health system. Even though occupational health services emerged towards the end of the 19th century in most countries, the development of the occupational health service varied with a corresponding deviation in the role of the occupational health nurse. Prof. Drummond discussed the implication for the role of the occupational health nurse in terms of the evolving model of occupational health; from health, environment and safety management, to work absenteeism management and vocational rehabilitation. More recently, healthy workplaces have become a wider focus area, encompassing wellbeing and health risk management that extend beyond the work setting.

Pilvi Österman (Finland) followed with a presentation titled ‘The occupational health service and the role of occupational health nursing in Finland’. She spoke about the global occupational health service which was developed in the 1950s when the WHO and ILO formulated an official definition of occupational health services, and described its fundamental points. The European Framework Directive that followed later does not obligate the arrangement of occupational health services, but the national legislations still define the obligations for said services. In conclusion, she discussed the occupational health paradigms developed from curative to preventive, and the critical role of the occupational health nurse in delivering cost-effective services to small enterprises.

The third speaker was Prof. Chiyo Igarashi (Japan) who presented an overview of the legislation of occupational health nursing in Japan. She started her presentation with sobering statistics: there were over 30 000 suicides per year in Japan from 1997 to 2011. Suicides by working adults accounted for 60% of the total, with the main cause being depression. Following the revision of the legislation in 2015, it became mandatory for worker stress checks to be implemented in workplaces. As in many other countries, mental health issues are gaining prominence in working populations in Japan. Occupational health nurses are well positioned to assess and manage stress and related factors in workplaces; hence, they are required constantly to develop skills that can support health, individuals, groups and organisations. She concluded by stating that “through the efforts of occupational health nurses, workplace communication and productivity have improved, group stress levels have lessened, and the number of worker suicides is decreasing gradually”.

Kim Davies (South Africa) presented a paper submitted by Dr Penny Orton who was unable to attend the Congress. Her presentation, ‘Through the looking glass: the future role of occupational health nursing in South Africa’, elaborated on the approach of blended learning, a useful teaching strategy which has the potential to advance the occupational health nursing specialisation programme at the Durban University of Technology, through the numerous opportunities for collaborative learning that are offered by this online technology. She stressed that “occupational health nurses are important in delivering health services to a hard-to-reach population of adult workers who do not have time to attend to their health needs”.

SASOHN members contributed to the Congress poster sessions with the following presentations: Denise Minnie - ‘Calling occupational health to the forefront’; Kim Davies - ‘An integrated approach to an occupational health programme in South Africa’; Louwna Pretorius - ‘Management support for an occupational health and safety programme: a myth or reality?’; and Michelle Bester - ‘Practices in the railway industry for assessment and management of psychosocial issues in South Africa’.

The ICOH SC on Mining Occupational Safety and Health (SCMinOSH) organised four sessions (three special and one abstract). The special session, ‘Hazards and good practices in formal and informal mining’, included presentations on health impacts and disorders in mine workers in Indonesia; ergonomic criteria in deep mining; occupational health risk assessments; and the application of the ‘Vision Zero’ approach for the prevention of accidents and diseases in the mining industry. The special session, ‘Mercury-free gold mining: advancing the application of the Minamata Convention’, covered more specific topics, including the advantages of mercury-free mining and the health impacts of mercury exposure and poisoning; the health effects of occupational and environmental exposure to boron; the use of the mercury-free gravity borax method in artisanal small-scale gold mining; and the health and legislative impacts of small-scale mining on communities in the Philippines. A third special session focused on occupational health in mining in remote locations. Within the mining abstract session titled ‘Occupational safety and health in small- and large-scale mining’, there were two presentations from South African delegates. Prof. Jill Murray (NIOH and Wits School of Public Health) presented Julian Mthombeni’s (Wits MPH student) research on factors influencing consent for autopsies in former mine workers for compensation purposes; and Dr Barry Kistnasamy (South African Compensation Commissioner) spoke on the legacy of occupational lung disease in southern African mine workers, and announced the very recent silicosis settlement case which will compensate mine workers who contracted silicosis from their occupational exposure to silica dust in six gold-mining companies in South Africa (or their surviving dependants), from a dedicated ZAR 5 billion fund. Other presentations in the same abstract session were on child labour in gold mining, health and environmental impacts of mining in Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and healthy lifestyle practices in open pit coal mining in Colombia.



Pioneered at ICOH2009 in Cape Town, South Africa, the Student Poster Competition is a forum where international students in the various disciplines of occupational health have the opportunity to showcase their original research, meet other students involved with occupational health and safety, and interact with occupational health professionals. The competition was held during the Congress and each student poster was critiqued and reviewed by two judges from the International Judging Panel; the judges also interviewed the students on the day of their poster assignments. A number of posters received awards in different categories; the prizes were sponsored by ICOH, the Irish Faculty of Occupational Medicine, the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management, and Cardinus Risk Management. Three SASOHN members were amongst the 40 judges for the Student Poster Competition, including Angie Butkovic, herself the recipient of the second student poster prize at the ICOH2015 Congress in Seoul. The winner of the ICOH first prize for student posters at the ICOH2018 Congress was Dewi Yunia Fitriani (Indonesia) for her poster titled, ‘Relationship between work-family conflict and emotional mental disorder among female nurses at a university-based tertiary general hospital in Jakarta’. The ICOH second prize was awarded to Marie-Christine Richard (Canada) for her poster titled, ‘Workers aged 55 and older working with pain’.



There were various sessions at the Congress dedicated to international collaborations in occupational health and its associated disciplines, including a global review on policies to eliminate asbestos-related diseases; the WHO/ILO joint methodology for estimating the burden of work-related disease and injury; the implementation of the ‘Seoul Statement’ (ICOH2015) on the development of occupational health services for all; and a workshop of international occupational health and safety efforts to prevent TB in healthcare and silica-exposed workers.


Global statements on TB prevention in healthcare and silica-exposed workers

The United Nations will be holding a unique High Level Meeting (HLM) on Tuberculosis on 26 September 2018. ICOH called for a strong global response to implement occupational health and safety practices in workplaces where workers are exposed to silica dust and in healthcare facilities, to prevent new cases of TB in these highly vulnerable occupational populations, especially in high TB-burden countries.

Two ICOH Statements, TB in health workers and TB in silica-exposed workers, were tabled for the ICOH2018 Congress, and the collective efforts to prevent TB in these two groups of workers were elaborated on in the workshop held as a special session at the Congress. Additionally, there was wide mention of these efforts at many of the sessions, to raise awareness and galvanise endorsement and action, from various organisations across the world. To date, the global effort on TB has focused almost entirely on treatment. New global commitment to add occupational health and safety preventive measures will contribute substantially to the reduction of silica dust exposure and the protection of health workers. These two initiatives are being championed by Dr Marilyn Fingerhut (Health Workers-TB) and Dr Perry Gottesfeld (Silica-TB), on behalf of ICOH, as leaders of their respective ICOH Working Groups. Below is the history behind the statements.

• The draft statements were accepted by the ICOH Officers for submission, when finalised, to the ICOH Board for approval as ICOH Statements, when it met on 28 and 29 April, prior to the Congress.

• Dr Perry Gottesfeld, Director of OK International, and colleagues, prepared the Silica-TB draft ICOH Statement. Drs Erik Jørs, Chair SC MinOSH, and Knut Ringen, Chair SC Construction, reviewed the statement.

• Dr Sophie Kisting, Director of NIOH, South Africa, and colleagues, prepared the Health Workers-TB draft ICOH Statement. Dr Gwen Brachman, the new Chair SC Occupational Health for Health Workers, and Prof. Mary Ross, Chair ICOH WGOIA, reviewed the statement.

• The intent of each statement was not to provide a scientific review, but to deliver a short document outlining key evidence and practical recommendations to facilitate inclusion of occupational safety and health in the United Nations TB Resolution, and ICOH’s participation at the first-ever UN General Assembly Meeting on TB to be held in September 2018; and to bring this issue to the attention of global health funders and policymakers.

• Organisations from across the world have been invited to endorse the TB statements, and Drs Fingerhut and Gottesfeld continue to reach out with the ICOH TB Statements to partners wanting to be involved in the concerted effort, and to contribute to assisting countries to implement TB occupational health and safety measures in the future.

• The ICOH Statements on TB are available on the ICOH website: http://www.icohweb.org/site/ICOH-TB-Statements.asp

• Subsequent to ICOH2018, from 3 to 6 June, the United Nations held meetings in New York City for civil society input on the ‘Zero Draft’ HLM TB Declaration. ICOH, the International Occupational Hygiene Association (IOHA), and OK International, registered for the June 4 Civil Society HLM which included the June 6 ‘Lobby Day’ to meet with country missions, and for the preparatory meetings on 3 and 5 June. Representatives of ICOH were Drs Marilyn Fingerhut, ICOH TB Liaison; Gwen Brachman, Chair SC Occupational Health for Health Workers; Rafael de la Hoz, Chair SC Respiratory Disorders; Roberto Lucchini (ICOH member), and Perry Gottesfeld (OK International). IOHA representatives were the President, Andrea Hiddinga-Schipper, and former President, Dr Dave Zalk.

• Concerted efforts by all organisations involved suggested the following wording for inclusion in the United Nations HLM TB Declaration:“Commit to primary prevention in high-risk occupations by reducing silica dust exposures in mining, construction and other dusty workplaces and implementing worker TB surveillance and infection prevention and control in healthcare settings”.


Raising the profile of occupational hygiene in the global occupational health arena

Traditionally, ICOH members have comprised occupational health professionals working in various sectors but most members are physicians or other occupational health practitioners in various disciplines. Although ICOH has an Industrial Hygiene SC, to date, relatively few ICOH members are occupational hygiene practitioners. It is well recognised that the good practice of occupational health requires active collaboration from professionals in the disciplines of occupational medicine, occupational hygiene, occupational health nursing and other allied areas to prevent and manage work-related disease and injury.

Two of the special sessions on international collaboration showcased the work of Workplace Health Without Borders (WHWB), an international non-profit organisation founded in 2011 with the main objective of addressing the limited expertise that exists globally for the prevention of workplace disease and injury (www.whwb.org). Membership is voluntary and members comprise professionals across various disciplines within occupational health, the most prominent being occupational hygiene. WHWB International is based in Canada but there are several branches across the world, e.g. WHWB-USA and WHWB-UK. 

The ICOH2018 Congress provided the ideal forum for WHWB to collaborate on the world stage and to further integrate primary prevention in partnership with international organisations like ICOH, particularly for under-served workers, their families, and communities. It was also the appropriate time for WHWB to participate in such an international event in the occupational health calendar, since a sub-group of healthcare providers has recently been established within WHWB. Healthcare providers, in collaboration with occupational hygienists, present an excellent interface between workers and management to identify occupational disease and work-related fatalities as a result of exposure to hazards at work. WHWB aims to work closely with healthcare providers towards an integrated approach to ‘build in’ the prevention of occupational disease.

 The first WHWB special session, titled ‘Workplace Health Without Borders - Increasing impact of global training and mentoring collaborations across organisations: protecting workforces’, was organised and chaired by two WHWB Board members, Claudina Nogueira and Dr Dave Zalk. The session illustrated successful examples of collaborations and WHWB projects for building occupational health and safety capacity, noting how more effective interactions with other national and international organisations could increase impact. There were four presentations by WHWB members, including one by the WHWB President, Dr Kevin Hedges (Canada), who spoke on silica dust exposure, and another by Dr Steve Thygerson (USA), who presented on training conducted in Mozambique to develop the occupational health and safety workforce. Collectively, the presenters discussed ways to increase collaborations and how WHWB can expand its global footprint to improve its current offerings in terms of delivering training, mentoring, development and translation of guidance materials. Included is technical assistance to build knowledge and capacity in occupational health and hygiene, particularly for under-served workforces in both developed and developing countries.

The second WHWB special session, titled ‘Workplace Health Without Borders – Methods and strategies: prevention of work-related non-communicable diseases in economically developing countries’, was organised and chaired by Dr Dave Zalk and Jackie Morton (WHWB-UK). The aim of the session, which consisted of five presentations, was to elaborate on the methods, strategies and opportunities for increasing worker access to occupational safety, health and hygiene professionals and reducing work-related risks. Topics discussed included informal sector exposures and prevention, qualitative strategies to simplify work-related risk reduction, and lessons learned and solutions to challenges in occupational health and safety training.

The session included presentations by members of global organisations other than WHWB. Peter-John (Jakes) Jacobs, SAIOH Council member and President Elect of IOHA, presented ‘Occupational Hygiene Training Association (OHTA) and IOHA: growing occupational hygiene where most needed’, on behalf of the IOHA President, Andrea Hiddinga-Schipper. He showed that the OHTA module system “provides a common occupational hygiene training and career ladder, and facilitates mobility through internationally recognised qualifications”. Now, seven years after the inception of the OHTA model, the training has been accepted as a feasible channel to meeting educational requirements for professional accreditations and addressing the future needs of occupational hygiene.

Another non-WHWB presentation was titled ‘WHO Collaborating Centres and ICOH: leveraging collaborations’, authored by the late Dr Leslie Nickels (NIOSH and Chair: ICOH SC on History of Prevention of Occupational and Environmental Diseases, 2015-2018). The WHO and ICOH are major organisations whose work contributes to protecting workers globally. By leveraging collaboration, each brings important perspective and expertise with shared commitments to healthy and safe workplaces. The presentation was a reflection on the outputs and reach of these partnerships, based on a review conducted on the WHO Collaborating Centres contributions toward the WHO Secretariat in implementing the Global Plan of Action for Workers’ Health, under the 2006-2012 workplan. The presentation was delivered as a joint effort by Dr Dave Zalk and Claudina Nogueira, in honour of Leslie’s memory and life’s work. Leslie’s illustrious career spanned close to 40 years as an activist, educator, mentor, historian and researcher in a range of occupational and environmental activities that support social justice and worker rights. Special appreciation is extended to Leslie’s husband, Lon Berkeley, for providing photographs and other personal accounts of Leslie’s life, which added a special humane dimension to the presentation. ‘Les’ as she was affectionately known, lost her brave battle with cancer on 27 November 2017 and will be sorely missed as a long-time friend and colleague of global occupational health; “Les is More, forever in our hearts and minds”.

The WHWB meeting (International and US and UK branches) followed the two WHWB special sessions. The meeting had an international flavour and WHWB was particularly fortunate in that the Presidents and Vice Presidents of both ICOH and IOHA participated in, and contributed to, the discussions. This was a first step in paving the way towards strengthening partnerships between all three international organisations. As a direct consequence of this meeting, the development of a memorandum of understanding between WHWB and IOHA is currently underway.

Another, broader, contribution to closer collaboration between occupational hygiene and occupational health was IOHA holding its Board meeting in Ireland to coincide with ICOH2018. The Board meeting was held over two days, 29 and 30 April, at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. Jakes Jacobs attended as the IOHA President Elect and the official SAIOH representative. At the IOHA Board meeting, Drs Perry Gottesfeld (USA) and Sophie Kisting (SA) addressed the Board on behalf of ICOH and stressed the importance of collaboration and support for two ICOH statements, by IOHA and its member associations: ‘Preventing tuberculosis among health workers’ and ‘Preventing TB among silica dust-exposed workers’.


Placing Africa on the global map of occupational health

Africa continues to be under-represented at ICOH, with only 6% of Congress delegates coming from the continent. Nevertheless, there was a special session dedicated to occupational health and safety activities in Africa, and many of the African delegates contributed poster and oral presentations in a number of different sessions. Additionally, two business meetings were convened at the Congress by two existing Pan-African organisations which promote occupational health and safety on the continent. SASOM, in association with the African Regional Association of Occupational Health (ARAOH), requested a meeting to discuss the future of occupational health and safety organisations in Africa. The recently established Occupational Safety and Health Africa Foundation (OSHAfrica) did likewise.

ARAOH (www.araoh.org) was established some years ago, with SASOM as its secretariat. It successfully hosted its first conference in 2011, in Johannesburg. The SASOM/ARAOH meeting was called to take full advantage of the presence of African occupational health and safety professionals at the Congress. There has been a lull in ARAOH’s activities and two other African countries had failed to host a conference, post the inaugurating conference.

OSHAfrica (www.oshafrica.africa) was inaugurated more recently as an occupational health and safety organisation with its own Board of Trustees, and is proposing to hold its first conference in Johannesburg, South Africa from 18 to 20 September 2019. The conference theme is ‘Occupational Health and Safety in Africa: Challenges and Actions’. OSHAfrica has the following aims:

• To lead occupational safety and health research and studies across the African continent;

• To work in collaboration with external occupational safety and health organisations and agencies in developing occupational safety and health projects and programmes, and generating and collecting data, in Africa;

• To bring together occupational safety and health professionals and associations across Africa, thus creating enabling environments for collaborative work and sharing of data;

• To hold collaborative talks with national leaders and to support the African Union and other regional economic authorities in terms of occupational safety and health expertise in workplace policy formulation and reviews across the continent.

The main outcome of the meetings was an agreement by ARAOH and OSHAfrica to continue to exist separately, but to collaborate to further occupational health development in Africa. ARAOH, in close association with SASOM as secretariat, will continue to focus on enhancing occupational medicine/health, and the main responsibility of OSHAfrica will be initiatives for the development of occupational hygiene and safety for the continent. SASOM/ARAOH pledged support towards the organisation of proposed conferences in Senegal in 2018 and Nigeria in 2019.

SASOM renewed its ICOH Affiliate Membership for the 2018-2021 triennium at the Congress; one of the learnings for Africa was the tabling of the European Working Conditions Framework report (2017 update). The report focuses on and describes trends in the European Union. Consideration should be given for the undertaking of an African regional survey along similar lines, as part of the globalisation of occupational health and a valuable contribution for the development of occupational health and safety in Africa.

The next conference of the ICOH SC on Occupational Health in the Chemical Industry (MEDICHEM), currently chaired by Dr Murray Coombs (SASOM member), will be held jointly with the SASOM Annual Congress in Johannesburg, from 31 July to 3 August 2019. The theme of the joint SASOM-MEDICHEM conference is ‘Control of Substances Hazardous to Health: Old and Emerging Issues’.

The next conference of the ICOH SC on History of Prevention of Occupational and Environmental Diseases will be held in Durban, from 27 to 29 May 2020. The conference has the support/co-sponsorship of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), three of the South African sister organisations in occupational health (SASOM, SAIOH, SASOHN), and the NIOH. The theme of the conference is ‘Occupational and Environmental Health: At the Crossroads of Migrations, Empires and Social Movements’. The main South African liaison and coordinator for the conference is Prof. Rajen Naidoo, Head: Occupational and Environmental Health, UKZN.



A number of South Africans deserve accolades for contributions aligned with the ICOH workplan and achievements at the ICOH2018 Congress:

• Three South African occupational health professionals were invited by the ICOH2018 Congress organisers to delivery plenary and semi-plenary addresses: Prof. Rodney Ehrlich (plenary), Prof. Mary Ross (semi-plenary), and Karen Michell (semi-plenary).

• Claudina Nogueira (SASOM ExCo and SAIOH Council member) was elected ICOH Vice President for Scientific Committees for the new triennium (2018-2021), after serving two consecutive terms on the ICOH Board (2012-2015; 2015-2018).

• Dr Adriaan Combrinck (SASOM ExCo member and Treasurer), outgoing ICOH National Secretary for South Africa, received an ICOH award at the Second ICOH General Assembly for the best-performing ICOH National Secretary of the African continent, in terms of recruitment of new ICOH members.

• Prof. Daan Kocks (SASOM Chair) was appointed the ICOH National Secretary for South Africa for the new triennium (2018-2021).

• Kim Davies (SASOHN member) was appointed Chair of the ICOH SC on Occupational Health Nursing (SCOHN) for the new triennium (2018-2021).

• Angie Butkovic (SASOHN member) was awarded the Yukiko Okui Award, jointly with Florence Moyo from Zimbabwe, for the best oral presentation submitted by an occupational health nurse.



The organisers of the 31st ICOH Congress in Seoul, Republic of Korea (ICOH2015) pioneered the inclusion of technical tours into the official congress programme, and the local organising committee of the ICOH2018 Congress continued the trend, by developing a winning formula for Congress participants. Six worksite visits were offered at different times over a few days during the Congress week, most at a cost of € 10, ranging in duration from 30 minutes to four hours. All the worksites were located within the Dublin greater city area, which meant that they were easily accessible and within a relatively short distance from the Congress venue.

• Dublin Port is a hub of activity as two thirds of traded goods in Ireland pass through the port each year. It also caters for cruise ships and the transport of cars and passengers by ferry, freight and container ships, and bulk carriers. The worksite visit included a visit to the administration building for a presentation, followed by a bus tour of the container and cruise liner berths.

• Diageo Ireland – the world-renowned Guinness Brewery at St James’ Gate is where the iconic Guinness has been brewed since 1759 (following a lease agreement of 9 000 years – this gives new meaning to ‘sustainability’!). There was also a session on the unique history of occupational health and medical services at St James’ Gate, as well as an overview of the employee wellness programme.

• Tesco Distribution Centre – the visit called for comfortable walking shoes as the distribution centre is housed in the longest building in Ireland – 1.3 km! The site tour was preceded by a presentation with a special focus on the unique rehabilitation programme for musculoskeletal conditions. The distribution centre employs 600 workers on site, from 24 different countries.

• Irish Aviation Authority – the Authority is located less than 2 km from the CCD. While walking, delegates were afforded the opportunity of seeing a monument to the gassing accident in a Dublin sewer, which claimed the lives of three workers in 1908. The visit included a presentation on the function of the aeromedical section of the Authority.

• The Guinness Architectural Legacy – this 5 km walking tour, from St James’ Gate to St Stephen’s Green, had six stops to showcase buildings, monuments and parks, restored or laid out and donated to Dublin citizens by several generations of the Guinness family.

• L.É WB Yeats, Irish Naval Vessel – the ship was docked just outside the CCD in the River Liffey, for only a few days, fortunately coinciding with the Congress dates. The vessel had recently returned from a humanitarian mission in the Mediterranean Sea, where its crew was involved in rescuing migrants from boats off the Libyan coast. The visit provided delegates a good opportunity to experience the vessel’s design and construction, as well as its high international standards in terms of safety, equipment fit, technological innovation, and working conditions of the 44-strong crew.



Parallel activities associated with the Congress, but not part of the programme, added further opportunities for networking.

One such event was the meeting of the International Group of the Society of Occupational Medicine held at the beautiful ‘home’ of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, in central Dublin. The highlight of the meeting was the presentation by Prof. Lode Godderis (Belgium) and the launch of his team’s comprehensive review of relevant occupational health research, global policy and regulations, ‘Occupational health: the global evidence and value’. This excellent publication provides ample well-evaluated evidence of occupational health for all stakeholders and is a valuable tool to promote the introduction of occupational health services https://www.som.org.uk/sites/som.org.uk/files/Occupational_Health_the_Global_Value_and_Evidence_April_2018.pdf). Apart from the stimulating presentations and discussions, the venue itself made the afternoon a memorable occasion. For clinicians brought up on ‘named’ conditions, it is an experience to see that so many ‘names’ were of Irish origin and played a prominent role in the College of Physicians. Both Graves and Stokes were 19th century presidents of the College, and their statues now overlook the main venue of the exquisite College building. The library contains priceless volumes of original writings.

A second function was a special event hosted by the Faculty of Occupational Medicine at the same beautiful and historic building that houses the Royal College of Physicians, on Tuesday evening, 1 May. The Faculty bestowed three of its Fellows with Lifetime Achievement Awards, for their respective outstanding contributions to the Faculty and more broadly, to the science and practice of occupational medicine: Prof. Tar-Ching Aw (posthumously received by Prof. David Koh), Prof. Raymond Agius and Prof. Ewan MacDonald. The Dean, Dr Blánaid Hayes, gave the opening address. The recipients delivered 30-minute presentations before receiving their awards: Prof. Raymond Agius presented his objective interpretation of ‘Anticipating new risks to health from work’, and postulated about what expertise and skills would be required to practice occupational health of the future; Prof. Ewan MacDonald presented ‘Reflections on the past, present and future of health and work’, which was peppered with some hearty humour and personal experiences and vignettes; Prof. David Koh presented ‘How to be a great occupational physician: lessons from Tar-Ching Aw’, which was a moving account of the exceptional life work of his long-time friend and colleague in occupational medicine, who he described as being ‘an inspiring teacher, selfless mentor and great advocate for the discipline’. What made the ceremony even more poignant was the fact that Professor Tar-Ching Aw’s family attended the function to accept his award from the Faculty, and his son addressed the guests in a very touching vote of thanks, on behalf of his late father. The global occupational medicine fraternity lost one of its leading lights when Prof. Tar-Ching Aw passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on 18 July 2017 in the UK, on a work trip. Prof. Ken Addley gave the closing address, which was followed by a canapé and drinks reception in the Graves Hall.



‘Going Green’ was a sustainable theme throughout the Congress (very apt, as the event was held in the capital city of the ‘Emerald Isle’), where the various organising entities really ‘walked their talk’ and made valuable contributions in ensuring the reduction of the Congress’ carbon footprint.

The Congress materials, which were few in terms of paper format, were presented to delegates at the registration desk in a bright green soft shopper bag made from recycled materials. The Congress programme was summarised in a compact, spiral bound booklet, and much of the extra information, including an up-to-date listing of the myriad sessions across numerous parallel sessions, and their respective abstracts, were available to delegates who downloaded the ‘Congress App’ to their smart phones, free of charge. The same Congress App was used for the interaction between delegates and the plenary speakers, by making use of the ‘Q and A’ opportunity and the polling functions. Delegates were also encouraged to use the Congress App to submit their photographs of the Congress and daily impressions and vignettes related to the sessions they attended, for consideration for publication in the daily editions of ‘The ICOH Times’, an e-newsletter distributed via the Congress App, with news ‘hot off the press’ and reminders of upcoming events and daily weather forecasts. The Congress App proved to be a very useful tool as it facilitated the planning of personal Congress agendas, provided real time alerts and notifications about the programme, and shared updates which complemented the daily issues of The ICOH Times.

Congress App Fast Facts – pages viewed on the App in total: 703 000; document downloads: 23 494; number of unique visitors: 1 509; questions asked of plenary speakers, with 691 ‘likes’: 203; percentage of use on mobile devices: 79; average visit time in minutes: 25.

Instead of being printed on endless reams of paper, all accepted abstracts were published as Congress Proceedings in a supplement of the Occupational and Environmental Medicine journal (open access), and are available online: https://oem.bmj.com/content/75/Suppl_2.



The first day of the Congress programme, Sunday 29 April, kicked off with the First ICOH General Assembly. The Opening Ceremony took place on the same evening, with various dignitaries contributing to the proceedings, including representatives from the Irish government, the WHO, the ILO, and the President of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, Professor Mary Horgan. Following the keynote address on the burden of occupational cancer, the ICOH Lifetime Achievement Award was bestowed on Prof. Bengt Knave, former ICOH President and Organiser of the ICOH1996 Congress in Sweden. Delegates were entertained by a troupe of Irish drummers, and then enjoyed a Welcome Reception and the opening of the exhibition which proved to be the ideal setting for networking and catching up with friends and colleagues.

Optional social events were on offer in the evenings from Monday to Wednesday, at an extra cost. These included a Dublin Literary Pub Crawl, a Lazy Bike Tour, a Historical Walking Tour, and the ‘Witness History’ interactive experience at the General Post Office building. Afternoon tours of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland’s Victorian building were also offered to delegates at no cost.

The organisers also offered various wellness activities to the Congress delegates. These included early morning pilates sessions and jogging tours for the early risers, as well as a week-long membership to the SV Fitness Gym.

There were various walking tours of Dublin on offer, as well as sightseeing tours during and after the Congress for delegates and accompanying persons. These included the Dublin Tour on the hop-on-hop-off bus; a tour to the Newgrange (a UNESCO World Heritage Site, dated 3200 BC) for a taste of ancient Ireland; tours into the Irish countryside to experience the Wicklow Mountains and Glendalough; and a visit to the spectacular Cliffs of Moher which are home to unique birdlife.

The Gala Dinner on Thursday night, 3 May, was a sumptuous banquet of food, drink and traditional Irish entertainment (music and dance), conducive to yet more networking opportunities and relaxed mingling. It was the highlight of the Congress social programme, attended by more than 800 participants. Many guests gave new meaning to ‘letting their hair down’ and danced well into the early hours of Friday morning, to the beats of a very animated band.

The Closing Ceremony on Friday afternoon, 4 May, was followed by the Second ICOH General Assembly. Dr Jukka Takala, ICOH President, presented the two newly-elected ICOH Vice Presidents: Claudina Nogueira, ICOH Vice President for Scientific Committees, and Dr Seong-Kyu Kang, serving his second term as ICOH Vice President for National Secretaries.

The ICOH Secretary General, Prof. Sergio Iavicoli, thanked the ICOH Officers, Board Members, and SC Chairs and Secretaries of the previous triennium (2015-2018), for their valuable contributions towards ICOH’s workplan. ICOH service awards were bestowed on Board Members and SC Chairs who served two consecutive terms in their respective posts (2012-2015; 2015-2018). He also thanked the ICOH National Secretaries for their dedicated work and significant efforts in growing ICOH membership in their respective countries, and conferred service awards to the best-performing National Secretaries, in terms of ICOH member recruitment. Special votes of thanks were offered to Dr Marilyn Fingerhut who served two terms in the post of ICOH Vice President for Scientific Committees, and to the ICOH2018 Organising Committee for the success of the Congress.

Official congratulations were offered to Morocco who won the bid to host the ICOH2024 Congress in Marrakesh. ICOH members in good standing who attended ICOH2018 voted for the venue of the 34th Congress (ICOH2024), from amongst four contenders: Montréal (Canada), Mumbai (India), Marrakesh (Morocco), and Bangkok (Thailand). Morocco won with an overwhelming majority of votes. This was the fourth time that Morocco bid to host the ICOH Congress. The theme proposed for ICOH2024 is ‘Enhancing Occupational Health Practices: Tackling the Gap’; dates are still to be finalised.

In a symbolic gesture, the ICOH flag was passed from the Irish ICOH2018 Congress Organising Committee to their Australian counterparts who will be hosting the 33rd International Congress on Occupational Health (ICOH2021) in Melbourne, 21-26 March 2021; the theme is ‘Sharing Solutions in Occupational Health: Locally, Regionally, Globally’.

The ICOH President addressed the ICOH General Assembly and spoke about the ICOH Strategy for the new triennium of 2018-2021. This was followed by questions and comments from the floor after which Dr Jukka Takala expressed sincere thanks to all participants for their valuable contributions towards ICOH activities and the ICOH2018 Congress, before declaring the proceedings officially closed.



The Dublin Statement on Occupational Health

The Congress adopted the ‘Dublin Statement on Occupational Health’, which expresses the commitment of ICOH to take action for the prevention of occupational cancers and asbestos-related diseases, in collaboration with other relevant international organisations. The statement was signed by Dr Martin Hogan, President of the ICOH2018 Congress, and Dr Jukka Takala, President of ICOH; it is accessible online: http://www.icohweb.org/site/multimedia/news/pdf/Dublin%20Statement%20on%20OH.pdf

The ‘Dublin Statement on Occupational Health’ includes the following components: policies, information and education, implementation, international actions, ICOH contribution, and follow-up. For implementation of its mission in occupational health, and considering its overarching professional and ethical imperatives, ICOH commits to the following actions, among others, for the prevention of occupational cancers and asbestos-related diseases:

• ICOH to join the United Nations and other international organisations and, within the limits of its resources, provide commitment and expertise for all relevant activities for the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Nos. 1 (no poverty), 3 (good health and wellbeing), and 8 (decent work and economic growth);

• ICOH to contribute to the production of scientific evidence and global and regional estimates on occurrence and distribution of occupational cancer and other work-related diseases and injuries, in collaboration with other interested organisations;

• ICOH to join and contribute to the organisation and activities of the Global Occupational Safety and Health Coalition;

• ICOH to provide its knowledge and expertise for collaboration with other international and national actors for the prevention of occupational cancer and elimination of asbestos-related diseases;

• ICOH to enhance its own activities by drawing up an ICOH Programme for the Prevention of Occupational Cancer, including the ICOH Programme towards the global ban of asbestos and the elimination of asbestos-related disease.

It is envisaged that follow-up and evaluation of this ICOH Statement will be included in the agenda of the Midterm Meeting of the ICOH Board, and the results will be presented at the 33rd International Congress on Occupational Health (ICOH2021) in Melbourne in 2021.


ICOH statements on TB prevention in healthcare and silica-exposed workers

As mentioned earlier, two ICOH Statements, on TB in health workers and TB in silica-exposed workers, were tabled for the ICOH2018 Congress, and are available online: http://www.icohweb.org/site/ICOH-TB-Statements.asp

In summary, the ICOH2018 Congress met its objectives exceptionally well. It offered its global participants a balanced ‘mixed bag’ of plenary and semi-plenary presentations, mini-symposia, seminars, workshops, worksite visits, and special, oral and poster sessions that showcased the scope of occupational health and safety practice and how this practice can effectively protect and promote the health of the global workforce. The scientific programme covered a wide range of occupational health and safety topics, demonstrating how research translates into excellence in practice. Through its diverse offerings, the Congress contributed admirably to advancing research and evidence-based approaches in occupational health and safety by promoting local, regional and global examples.

On the social and leisure front, Dublin was the perfect host city for the ICOH2018 Congress. The friendliness and charm of its people, coupled with the relaxing ‘down time’ culture of the many offerings across the city’s districts in terms of touring, entertainment and gastronomic experiences, made visitors from far and wide feel very welcome. And we now know there is indeed a pub on every street corner! Even the weather did not disappoint; it was far from the typical Irish wet weather we had all expected and turned out to be surprisingly mild, with sunny and clear skies for most of the days. We left the ‘Emerald Isle’ feeling content and enriched from our various experiences in terms of professional development, proposals for new collaborations, time-out for rest and relaxation, and exposure to different traditions and cultures. We also learned that a pint of flawlessly poured Guinness is the perfect accompaniment to any meal, at any time!

‘Céad Mile Fáilte’ – a hundred thousand welcomes, indeed! And ‘Sláinte’ (cheers) to Dublin!



Special thanks to the ICOH2018 Congress Organisers for providing the Congress statistics and permission to use the Congress logo, and to the ICOH Secretariat for permission to use the ICOH logo.


Report contributors:

SASOM: Mary Ross, Daan Kocks, Adriaan Combrinck, Claudina Nogueira

SAIOH: Johan du Plessis, Peter-John (Jakes) Jacobs, Claudina Nogueira

SASOHN: Denise Minnie, Kim Davies, Angie Butkovic, Louwna Pretorius, Michelle Bester, Sue Martinuzzi

MMPA: Thuthula Balfour


Part A – Professional Development


A new broom – The newly elected ICOH Officers and Board Members for the current triennium (2018-2021) pose for an official photograph at the beautiful Victorian home of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.

L to R: Back row – Prof. Christophe Paris (France), Dr Oliver Lo (Singapore), Dr Paul A Schulte (USA), Prof. Francesco Violante (Italy); third row – Prof. Stavroula Leka (UK), Prof. Frida Marina Fischer (Brazil), Dr Eun-A Kim (Republic of Korea), Dr Rosa Maria Orriols Ramos (Spain); second row – Dr Martin Hogan (Ireland), Dr Shyam Pingle (India), Prof. Maureen Dollard (Australia), Prof. Seichi Horie (Japan), Prof. Kari Reijula, (Finland); front row, seated – Dr Seong-Kyu Kang, Vice President (Republic of Korea), Prof. Sergio Iavicoli, Secretary General (Italy), Dr Jukka Takala, President (Finland), Ms Claudina Nogueira, Vice President (South Africa), Dr Kazutaka Kogi, Past President (Japan)

Absent: Prof. Mats Hagberg (Sweden), Dr Sunil Kumar Joshi (Nepal), Ms Maria Luisa Tupia Gonzales (Peru)

Photograph: ICOH


Band of Brothers from Africa - L to R: Dr Uche Enumah (incoming ICOH National Secretary for Nigeria, 2018-2021), Dr Okon Akiba (outgoing ICOH National Secretary for Nigeria, 2015-2018), and Prof Daan Kocks (incoming ICOH National Secretary for South Africa, 2018-2021 and SASOM Chair); all are members of the African Regional Association of Occupational Health (ARAOH)

Photograph: Claudia Frost (UK)

ICOH Recognition – Dr Adriaan Combrinck (centre), outgoing ICOH National Secretary for South Africa who served two terms (2012- 2015, 2015-2018) receives a special award from Prof Sergio Iavicoli, ICOH Secretary General (left) and Dr Jukka Takala, ICOH President for being the best performing ICOH National Secretary in Africa, in terms of recruitment of members

Photograph: Daan Kocks (SA)


The long and winding road – ICOH long service recognition awards were bestowed on ICOH Board members who served two consecutive terms, 2012-2015 and 2015-2018.

L to R: Prof Sergio Iavicoli (ICOH Secretary General), Prof Malcolm Sim (Australia), Dr Shrinivas Shanbhag (India), Dr Edoardo Santino (Brazil), Dr Elia Enriquez (Mexico), Ms Claudina Nogueira (South Africa), Dr Jukka Takala (ICOH President)

Photograph: Daan Kocks (SA)





The Congress ‘Poster Girls’ for Occupational Health Nursing

From top to bottom: SASOHN Members Ms Denise Minnie (President), Ms Michelle Bester, Ms Louwna Pretorius, Ms Susanne Martinuzzi

Photographs: Kim Davies and Angie Butkovic (SA)


Hip Hip Hooray and Three Cheers – There were joint winners for the Yukiko Okui Award for the best oral presentation submitted by an occupational health nurse.

L to R: Ms Louwna Pretorius (South Africa), Ms Angie Butkovic (award winner from South Africa), Ms Denise Minnie (South Africa), Ms Kim Davies (South Africa), Ms Florence Moyo (award winner from Zimbabwe), and Prof Susan Randolph (USA)

Photograph: Angie Butkovic (SA)


Spotlight on Global Occupational Health Nursing – Presenters of the Special Session organised by the ICOH Scientific Committee on Occupational Health Nursing (SCOHN).

L to R: Prof Chiyo Igarashi (Japan), Prof Susan Randolph - outgoing Chair of SCOHN, 2015-2018 (USA), Ms Kim Davies – incoming Chair of SCOHN, 2018-2021 (South Africa), Prof Anne Drummond (Ireland) and Ms Pilvi Österman (Finland), flanked by Ms Kirsi Lappalainen – incoming Secretary of SCOHN, 2018-2021 (Finland)

Photograph: Kim Davies (SA)


Sparkle and Shine – The ICOH2018 Congress venue was the ultra-modern Convention Centre Dublin (CCD) in Ireland, located at Spencer Dock on the banks of the River Liffey. The CCD has become an iconic landmark building on Dublin’s skyline and offers 22 flexible halls, meeting rooms and boardrooms to the discerning event organiser and delegate

Photograph: Claudia Frost (UK)


From Dusk to Dawn – The allure of the vibrantly lit ICOH2018 Congress venue, the Convention Centre Dublin (CCD), and the cable-stayed Samuel Beckett Bridge, reflecting off the River Liffey, after dark

Photograph: Claudia Frost (UK)



Higher Ground – The grand foyer of the Convention Centre Dublin (CCD), with a view of the River Liffey in the background. From the higher levels, the glass atrium offers panoramic views of Dublin city, bay and the Wicklow Mountains

Photograph: Claudina Nogueira (SA)


The Main Event – The Auditorium of the Convention Centre Dublin (CCD), spanning levels 3, 4 and 5, has a capacity of 2000 seats and was the venue of the Opening Ceremony, all the plenary presentations and the Global Policy Forum (featured here)

Photograph: Claudina Nogueira (SA)


Hive of Activity – The ICOH Officers and Board Members of the previous triennium (2015-2018) held their last two meetings on the weekend before the start of the ICOH2018 Congress

Photograph: Claudina Nogueira (SA)


Information Overload – There were over 700 poster presentations during the ICOH2018 Congress week, including 76 student posters

Photograph: Claudia Frost (UK)


Transcending Boundaries – Workplace Health Without Borders (WHWB) held a meeting following its two Special Sessions. WHWB’s participation at the Congress had the main objective of raising the profile of the occupational hygiene discipline and establishing collaborations with occupational health professionals across the globe. The meeting was ‘high level’, with a few ‘Presidents’ in attendance: ICOH President Dr Jukka Takala (Finland) and WHWB President Dr Kevin Hedges (Canada) – front centre – and International Occupational Hygiene Association (IOHA) President Ms Andrea Hiddinga-Schipper (The Netherlands) and IOHA President Elect Mr Peter-John (Jakes) Jacobs (South Africa) – back, right of centre; and even a former IOHA President, Dr Dave Zalk – front, second from left

Photograph: Jakes Jacobs (SA)


United Nations Personified – Seen and heard at the Business Meeting of the ICOH Working Group on Occupational Infectious Agents (WGOIA).

L to R: Dr Toru Yoshikawa (Japan), Prof Stefano Porru (Italy), Dr Robert Orford (USA), Prof Kari Reijula (Finland), Ms Claudina Nogueira (South Africa, WGOIA Secretary), Dr Gabriela Moreno (Chile), Dr Tanusha Singh (South Africa), Dr Laura Flores (Paraguay), Dr Carmen Busneag (Romania), Dr Albert Nienhaus (Germany), Prof Mary Ross (South Africa, WGOIA Chair), Prof Thomas Fuller (USA), Dr David Fishwick (UK)

Photograph: Claudina Nogueira (SA)


Work and Play – ICOH2018 Congress Organising Committee ‘hotshots’ Prof Ken Addley OBE (Scientific Chair) and Dr Blánaid Hayes (Dean of the Faculty of Occupational Medicine, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland) – first and third from left – enjoy a short break from their hectic schedules with ICOH Board Members (2015-2018) Dr Elia Enriquez (Mexico), Ms Claudina Nogueira (South Africa) and Dr Dag Ellingsen (Norway)

Photograph: Elia Enriquez (Mexico)



Sister Act – Making us all proudly South African were Prof Mary Ross (left) and Ms Karen Michell (right), who were invited by the ICOH2018 Congress Organisers to deliver semi-plenary presentations in their fields of expertise, titled respectively ‘Infections in the workplace: Identifying problems and applying research to prevention’ and ‘The quality and governance of occupational healthcare services in South Africa: What lessons for universal health coverage?’

Photographs: Angie Butkovic (SA)


Social Highlight –- Congress delegates were treated to a sumptuous banquet of food, drink and traditional Irish entertainment (music and dance) at the ICOH2018 Gala Dinner

Photograph: Claudina Nogueira (SA)




Blast from the Past – The beautiful and historic home of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland was the venue for various meetings associated with the ICOH2018 Congress. Featured here are the imposing Graves Hall as well as the conference materials of the 21st International Congress on Occupational Health (ICOH1984) held in Dublin, which are on permanent display at this veritable bastion to the history of medicine in Ireland.

Photograph: Claudina Nogueira (SA)


Part B – Work-life Balance


 ‘Celebratory Ireland’ – Congratulations to Prof Daan Kocks (SASOM Chair and ICOH National Secretary for South Africa) and his loving wife Marthie, who celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary during the Congress week

Photograph: Tania Mulder (SA)


 ‘Convivial Ireland’ – Conducting collaborative research in the field…

L to R: Dr William Buchta (USA, President of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine), Prof Mary Ross (South Africa, Chair of WGOIA) and Dr Robert Orford (USA, member of WGOIA)

Photograph: Claudina Nogueira (SA)


‘Spirited Ireland’ – Angie Butkovic (SASOHN member), in Leprechaun mode, forgoes finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and instead, gives her stamp of approval to a local brew.

Photograph: Angie Butkovic (SA)


 ‘Alfresco Ireland’ – SASOHN members Michelle Bester (left) and Denise Minnie (SASOHN President) enjoy Dublin blue skies and sunshine over the River Liffey, with the Irish Naval Vessel L.É WB Yeats in the far background

Photograph: Angie Butkovic (SA)


 ‘Cultural Ireland’ – The campanile (bell tower) of Trinity College Dublin was completed in 1853. The entire structure stands at 30.5 meters and is mainly granite in composition, with its carvings being of portland stone. The superstition holds that any student who passes beneath the campanile when the bells toll will fail their exams, causing some to never pass under it until they finish their time at Trinity College.

Photograph: Claudina Nogueira (SA)


‘Symbolic Ireland’ – The ‘Brian Boru’ Harp, also known as the Trinity College Harp, is a medieval musical instrument on display in the Long Room of the Old Library of Trinity College Dublin. The harp, which may well be the oldest existing harp in the world, is the national symbol of Ireland, being depicted on national heraldry, Euro coins, Irish currency, and even on the Guinness logo

Photograph: Claudina Nogueira (SA)


‘Rural Ireland’ – A seasoned, award-winning shepherd tending to his flock, with the deft assistance of highly trained sheepdogs.

Photograph: Claudina Nogueira (SA)


‘Rugged Ireland’ – The journey of a lifetime awaits along 2 500km of coastal road on the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’. Soaring cliffs, jagged edges, colossal natural wonders, remote islands, lush woodlands, coastal stretches and rural villages all contribute to spectacular Irish landscapes, each with its own unique splendour.

Photograph: Claudina Nogueira (SA)


‘Historic Ireland’ – An unusual view of Blarney Castle, a medieval stronghold near Cork. The castle is now a partial ruin with some accessible rooms and battlements. At the top of the castle lies the Stone of Eloquence, better known as the Blarney Stone. According to legend, kissing the stone endows the kisser with the ‘gift of the gab’ (great eloquence and skill at flattery). This is a remarkable achievement for anyone, as it requires much flexibility: one is required to hang upside-down over a sheer drop to kiss the stone. The castle is a popular tourist site in Ireland, attracting visitors from all over the world to kiss the stone and tour the castle and its gardens.

Photograph: Claudia Frost (UK)


‘Traditional Ireland’ – The pub (short for ‘public house’ – of which there are around 10 000 across Ireland) - is integral to Irish society, an institution really, and an entrenched tradition. Irish poet WB Yeats said, ‘There are no strangers here, just friends who haven’t met’ and that’s no truer than in the pub – which has at its core a sense of camaraderie and friendship. Feasts are celebrated in the Irish pub, weddings, funerals, wakes, christenings, birthdays and any other celebrations one can think of

Photograph: Claudia Frost (UK)


‘Iconic Ireland’ – Ireland produces the best stouts and whiskeys in the world, no contest. Guinness is indeed not only the most common beer in Ireland, but also something of a national symbol. Irish whiskey, whether Jameson, Bushmills, Midleton or Blackbush, enjoys great popularity among whiskey connoisseurs the world over.

Photographs: Claudia Frost (UK)


 ‘Contrasting Ireland’ – Although the city of Dublin has evolved into a modern and trendy city, it retains its strong sense of history, culture and tradition. An example is the juxtaposition seen here, between the stylised architecture of the Samuel Beckett Bridge on the River Liffey, and the historical significance of the Jeannie Johnston Tall Ship (a replica of the original vessel dating back to 1847), which carried 2500 Irish emigrants to North America in the mid-1800s.

Photograph: Claudia Frost (UK)

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