SAIOH Presidents message

SAIOH

In this communication, we have some important and relevant news. There’s an update on our Branch development and their activities, as well as information from the Department of Employment and Labour (DEL), explaining how legislation is written, reviewed and promulgated. This information is important to us as practising occupational hygienists.


Garth Hunter, SAIOH International Liaisons representative, accepts the IOHA - NARC accreditation certificate from the current IOHA President, Peter-John ‘Jakes’ Jacobs Photographer unknown

 

SAIOH RETAINS ACCREDITATION OF PCC ­CERTIFICATION WITH IOHA-NARC

First, some excellent news: the Southern African Institute for Occupational Hygiene (SAIOH) has retained the accreditation of our PCC certification system with the International Occupational Hygiene Association’s National Accreditation Recognition Committee (IOHA-NARC).

The IOHA - NARC recommended that the SAIOH certification system – for certification and registration of occupational hygiene practitioners in southern Africa – continues to meet (or exceed) the required internationally accepted standard for mutual recognition of our occupational hygienists. Our new certificate was issued on 8 September 2019 and is valid for the next five years. This is SAIOH’s third consecutive renewal. Benefits for retaining this accreditation include mutual recognition of our certification by all the IOHA associations (more than 37, worldwide) and reciprocity within the NAR certification bodies (CBs) of each other’s certifications on the same level.

It is important to thank the members of the SAIOH Professional Certification Committee (PCC) who have worked tirelessly to ensure that our system continues to develop in line with international standards, and who prepared the required documentation to support the renewal bid.

 

NEW SAIOH PCC EVALUATION CRITERA

The SAIOH is a professional registration body. The PCC is an autonomous committee of SAIOH with a mandate of setting evaluation criteria and the assessments (written and oral) to assess members of SAIOH in specific categories. The three categories accredited by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) are: registered occupational hygiene assistants (ROHAs); registered occupational hygiene technologists (ROHTs); and registered occupational hygienists (ROHs).

The PCC evaluates SAIOH members, permitting them to sit examinations in line with their evaluated competencies in occupational hygiene, i.e. their tertiary qualifications and occupational hygiene experience (> 70% full-time work in occupational hygiene per year). When a member qualifies at the relevant assessment level, he or she is certified and then registered by SAQA at the appropriate level.

The PCC has, over many years, improved the assessment standards as well as the efficiency, competency and acceptance of our certified (registered) members. Examples include a comprehensive question database, a self-assessment evaluation to identify gaps in occupational hygiene competency for each individual, the new electronic written assessment formats, and the soon-to-be new oral assessment format.

The pass rate of the different certification levels, unfortunately, fluctuated from the start of this certification system. In 1993 the pass was 80-95% for ROHAs, 50-65% for ROHTs, and a bleak 20-45% for ROHs. Not surprisingly, there were a few exceptions, i.e. assessment sessions where the majority of ROHs and/or ROHTs came into the system with very specific occupational hygiene qualifications at tertiary and post-graduate levels. For the preceding two IOHA - NARC renewals, we received serious concerns regarding our non-occupational hygiene specificity regarding some of the qualifications accepted by the PCC. Some of the harshest critiques came from the Departments of Employment and Labour (DEL) and Mineral Resources (DMR), regarding the quality of our certified ROH members and their work. Complaints of ‘slavery’ were also received from ROHAs. There were also revisions to the SAQA National Qualifications Framework (NQF) rating system (on which we base our certification system).

On 30 May 2019, a notification pertaining to the new evaluation criteria was e-mailed to all SAIOH members. The PCC, following legal requirements, allowed six weeks for comment. Comments were reviewed by the PCC Executive Comittee and the evaluation criteria were then reworked. Subsequently, an Addendum was e-mailed to all SAIOH members on 4 July 2019, detailing updated evaluation criteria. Members were requested to sign an acknowledgement of the notification, and the Addendum, and to return this to the PCC administration. Acknowledgement of the evaluation criteria is now also included in the registration/upgrade process.

In short, the following changes were made to the evaluation criteria:

• ROHAs are not exploitable labour. A ROHA is viewed by SAIOH as a practitioner in a two-year apprenticeship programme during which he or she is expected to accumulate the required occupational hygiene experience and exposure to apply – and be assessed – at the ROHT level. An assistant may remain at this level for a maxumum of five years, effective from 1 January 2018, after which written motivation must be submitted to the PCC Executive Committee with valid reasons for remaining a ROHA.

• ROHTs must have a SAIOH-accredited tertiary qualification, containing at least 50% occupational hygiene content and recognised at SAQA NQF 7 level, after 31 December 2020. Any applicant for the ROHT level after this date, with tertiary qualifications not meeting the PCC accreditation, will have to have an occupational hygiene-related tertiary qualification, recognised at the NQF 7 level. Additionally, the applicant will need at least three OHTA modules (as per the OHTA Intermediate Certificate in Occupational Hygiene (ICert OH)), or be in possession of an OHTA ICert OH qualification (part of the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) route).

• ROHs must have a SAIOH-accredited tertiary qualification at SAQA NQF 8 level after 31 December 2020. Any applicant for the ROH level after this date, without the necessary PCC-accredited NQF 8 OH qualification, will have to have an occupational hygiene-related tertiary qualification at the NQF 8 level, as well as the OHTA ICert OH certificate. Alternatively, a diploma in Professional Occupational Hygiene Competency by the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) (part of the RPL route) will be required.

The only exception to this is the current SAIOH members with BTech degrees in Environmental Health (now rated by SAQA as a NQF 7). The PCC Executive Committee, in its Addendum for progress to the ROH level, extended the cut-off date for acceptance of this degree by three years, to 31 July 2022. The motive for this is that the BTech degree was previously rated at the same level as a BSc Honours degree (NQF 8) and, at most Universities of Technology, covered at least 50% occupational hygiene content in their syllabi; and that in the short term, there was no easy/quick substitute progression to the new BS qualification (at Honours/NQF 8 level).

 

SAIOH BRANCH NEWS

Review of 2019 activities

Many of you will be aware that one of the key strategic aims set by the SAIOH Council for the last few years is the growth and development of our branch structure.

The initiative was driven by the realisation that our Institute covers a large geographic area, not only within South Africa’s borders but also with regard to our Southern African Development Community (SADC) neighbours, from where we have seen a substantial increase in membership over the past few years. Coordinating from a central office, with conferences and workshops held in the traditionally recognised main centres, made it very difficult (from both a travel and expense perspective) for many of our members to participate in SAIOH-related meetings or events.

The first steps in spreading the SAIOH brand and creating easier access to meetings and workshops was the drive and support to increase the number of branches and discussion groups. This makes it easier for members in outlying areas to be exposed to learning opportunities and to interact with their peers. In the past two years, our branches have increased from five regularly active branches in 2017 to 11 active branches in 2019. Interest in forming additional branches in several neighbouring countries is currently progressing, thanks to the hard work and marketing on behalf of SAIOH by our Vice-President, Norman Khoza. We hope to see an additional five or six more branches operating in 2020.

The branches have run 20 meetings and three workshops in 2019, with exceptional member attendance. The types of presentations and learning opportunities cover a wide range of topics, all of great interest to our members. Find out where your local branch meetings occur and ensure that you are on the mailing list for their activities. If you still feel isolated, consider starting a discussion group with other local members or your colleagues. For information on these options, contact Tracy Mphaphuli (tracym@saioh.co.za) or Kate Smart (kates@saioh.co.za). Table 1 shows typical activities and topics for our active branches during 2019.

 

SAIOH Western Cape Mini Conference

On 30 August 2019, Cape Town played host to the third SAIOH Western Cape Mini Conference in the Tygerberg Nature Reserve in Welgemoed. Professionals and delegates from various industries attended, and several exhibitors were present on the day.

“Success doesn’t come from what you do occasionally, it comes from what you do consistently”, and the increase in seats filled at the 2019 Mini Conference, compared to 2018, reflected the importance of consistency. The theme for the day was Pregnant workers in the workplace versus chemical exposure and encompassed several speakers from different fields, associated with occupational medicine, occupational hygiene, and the legal aspects pertaining to the protection of pregnant workers in the workplace.

Dr Gregory Kew, an occupational medicine specialist and a lecturer in the School of Public Health and Family Medicine at the University of Cape Town (UCT), focussed his presentation on “Reproductive health in the workplace – a technical/management guideline”. He discussed the usefulness and importance of a comprehensive, high-quality reproductive health risk assessment. An overview of a stepwise approach followed, including important factors and workplace controls, often overlooked during the different stages of pregnancy.

“Reproductive hazards in the workplace”, was the topic covered by Dr Shahieda Adams, who is an occupational medicine specialist and holds joint appointments as Senior Lecturer in the Occupational Medicine Division in the School of Public Health and Family Medicine, and Occupational Medicine Consultant in the Department of Medicine at UCT. She covered aspects relating to the reproductive health and hazards for male and female employees.

Ms Stefanie Viljoen, the founder and director of Stef Viljoen (Pty) Ltd., introduced us to the legal side of pregnancy in the workplace. Ms Viljoen holds an LLB degree as well as an LLM (Masters in Environmental Law and Governance) and highlighted the relevant international and South African legislation relevant to pregnant and breastfeeding employees in workplaces where they may be exposed to hazardous chemical substances.

Mr Fanie Kruger, a registered occupational hygienist and an experienced trainer in occupational health and safety risk management, as well as one of the Western Cape’s own SAIOH members, from SafeNet (Africa), presented the legal perspectives of keeping medical surveillance records. Other key aspects that were addressed during the presentation included the assessment of potential exposures, role players in occupational health, the fundamental purpose of medical surveillance, and the important information that should appear on a personal medical file of an employee.

Dr Johan Schoeman, Managing Director of NERSHCO, gave a short and insightful presentation on “Breastfeeding: challenges for the occupational hygiene professionals”. The discussion focussed on a few of the health risks linked to pregnancy and breastfeeding, and the management of these risks.

To conclude the day’s events, Mr Wessel van Wyk, a SAIOH member, thanked everyone who contributed to the success of the Mini Conference, including the members of the SAIOH Western Cape Branch, the exhibitors (3M, SKC, SPA, PathCare, AMS Haden, UVEX, and Incon) and all the presenters.

 

Drafting and review of occupational health and safety legislation

Many SAIOH members regularly work with the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act (Act No. 85 of 1993) and Regulations and may not be aware of the structure and hard work that goes into reviewing and developing new legislation. With several important regulations related to our profession currently undergoing review, we appreciate the information supplied by Ms Elize Lourens from the Department of Employment and Labour’s (DEL) Occupational Hygiene Inspectorate Division.

It is the responsibility of the Advisory Council for Occupational Health and Safety (ACOHS) to determine if any legislation needs to be reviewed or if new legislation needs to be introduced. The ACOHS will advise the Minister of Labour, accordingly, and will instruct the DEL to establish a technical committee or request additional information in lieu of the received proposal. Once the ACOHS has given the go-ahead to develop a new regulation or amend an existing regulation, a technical committee will be established and appointed by the Chief Inspector who is also the Chairperson of ACOHS.

Each technical committee will constitute representation from organised business, organised labour, technical specialists, and the DEL. Representatives of organised business and organised labour are nominated by their respective organisations (Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) or Labour Federations). Officials from other government departments might also be consulted by the technical committee.

The technical committee then sets about developing a work plan, according to which the new legislation will be drafted, or the existing regulations reviewed. The progress on the work plan is periodically reported to the ACOHS by the responsible officials. The drafting process may take a long time as consensus needs to be reached within the technical committee, and the frequency of meetings is dependant on the availability of committee members who all have full-time jobs.

Once the final draft regulations are concluded and agreed to by the technical committee, the document is presented to the ACOHS. The ACOHS can instruct the DEL or the technical committee to reconsider certain aspects of the draft document or to approve the draft document. When approval has been granted by the ACOHS, the draft regulations are submitted, with the ACOHS recommendation, to the Minister of Labour, to grant approval for public comment. Once ministerial approval has been obtained, the draft regulation will be published in the Government Gazette (gazetted), and it will be ‘out’ for public comment for a period of 90 days. This period provides the general public and affected stakeholders the opportunity to assess the draft document and provide input and comments. During this period, stakeholder engagements will be hosted by the DEL for the presentation of the draft document to affected parties. Public comments can be submitted, in writing, until the closing date.

Once the period for public comment ends, all comments received will be consolidated by the DEL. The consolidated comments are then tabled before the technical committee for discussion and consideration. The technical committee will revise the draft document as necessary, in accordance with public comment. When the technical committee is satisfied, the new draft regulations will be presented to the ACOHS for approval, after which they will be sent to the State Law Advisors for a legal opinion to ascertain if the draft is in conflict with other legislation, including the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.

The draft regulations are also sent for language editing; this process is in parallel to the process of the Socio-Economic Impact Assessment System (SEIAS), which investigates the impact that the proposed legislation will have on South African society. Any outcomes from these processes will be incorporated into the draft regulations before final submission to the ACOHS. With the approval of the ACOHS, the legislation will be submitted to the Minister of Labour for promulgation, and then published in the Government Gazette as a new regulation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Act (Act No. 85 of 1993), as
amended.


Report by:

Celia Keet, SAIOH President
e-mail: saiohpresident@saioh.co.za
Norman Khoza, SAIOH Vice-President
e-mail: normank@nepad.org
Julie Hills, SAIOH Immediate Past President
e-mail: julie@satservices.co.za
Deon van Vuuren, SAIOH General Manager and PCC Chief Examiner
e-mail: deon.jvvuuren@gmail.com
Tracy Mphaphuli, SAIOH Administrative Assistant
 e-mail: tracym@saioh.co.za

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