SASOM 2019 Annual General Meeting and Conference



Claudina Nogueira, SASOM ExCo Member and ICOH Vice President, e-mail:
Prof. Daan Kocks, SASOM Chair and ICOH National Secretary for South Africa, e-mail:
Dr Jenny Sapire, SASOM National Secretary 2019, e-mail:
Jaco Botha, Project Coordinator in the SASOM Office, e-mail:

The South African Society of Occupational Medicine (SASOM) Eastern Cape Chapter hosted the SASOM Annual General Meeting (AGM) and associated Conference at the Protea Hotel Port Elizabeth Marine, Summerstrand, Port Elizabeth, on 23 November 2019.



The Conference brought together approximately 90 delegates, presenters, organisers and exhibitors (Amtronix (Pty) Ltd and Sanofi Pasteur), under the theme of Difference between Medically Fit and Unfit to Work, and was accredited for six Continuing Education Units (CEUnits) by the South African Medical Association (SAMA). The last SASOM ExCo meeting of the year was held on Friday 22 November; the AGM followed the close of the Conference, on Saturday 23 November.

Dr Logan Naidoo, Chair of the SASOM Eastern Cape Chapter, officially opened the Conference and welcomed all participants. The morning session was chaired by Dr Adriaan Combrinck (SASOM Treasurer) who introduced the first four presenters.

Dr Greg Kew, SASOM ExCo member, occupational medicine specialist and honorary senior lecturer at the University of Cape Town (UCT), gave the opening presentation titled “Fit or not fit to work: an all-inclusive decision”. His presentation covered the core elements of medical ‘fitness-to-work’ and their implications for the certifying practitioner. He stressed that determining medical ‘fitness-to-work’ and understanding the aspects of what this means are fundamental knowledge areas for the occupational health practitioner (OHP), and illustrated his points with case studies.

The second presentation, titled “Medical surveillance versus medical diagnosis and the decision of employee impairment”, was delivered by Dr Haidee Williams, occupational medicine specialist in private practice and honorary lecturer at UCT. She described how medical surveillance, defined as a “planned programme or periodic examination of employees”, should not be confused with ‘fitness-to-work’ assessments. There may be elements of both surveillance and fitness during one encounter, but it is important for the OHP to maintain clarity in his or her mind about the principal intent of the medical examination. Furthermore, the impact of the medical condition can only be assessed by having a thorough understanding of the workplace through a health risk assessment, and having knowledge of the inherent requirements of the job.

The SASOM AGM 2019 and associated Conference were hosted by the SASOM Eastern Cape Chapter at the Protea Hotel Port Elizabeth Marine, Summerstrand, Port Elizabeth  Photograph: Marissa Muller, SASOM Member


Mrs Marlize Watermeyer and Mrs Chanette van der Merwe, co-directors of Watermeyer and van der Merwe (Pty) Ltd–Occupational Therapists, and official representatives of Occupational Therapy in Occupational Health (OTOH), followed with a presentation titled “Functional capacity evaluations: a critical construct in the management of absenteeism”. Their joint presentation reviewed the multi-faceted dilemma surrounding absenteeism due to several illness drivers that require a more holistic approach, including adjustments to conventional approaches. They concluded that occupational therapists have a vital role to play in both preventive and rehabilitative strategies related to illness and subsequent absenteeism management. Functional capacity evaluations, reports and risk screenings are crucial instruments for providing occupational health stakeholders with valid quantifiable information to manage illness prevalence.

Dr Jan Lapere, SASOM ExCo member and private practitioner in occupational medicine, medico-legal and social labour law, presented in – and facilitated – the discussion session titled “The role of an occupational health professional group in South Africa”. This interactive session generated much interest among delegates and was divided into four parts: SASOM history; SASOM current mission, vision, aims and objectives; constraints, requests, benchmarking, and proposed aims and objectives; and public debate.

The afternoon session was chaired by Dr Logan Naidoo. He introduced Ms Reneé Verson, an audiologist in private practice and director of Reneé Verson Audiologists Inc. In her presentation, titled “Hearing impairment and fitness-to-work” she discussed the nature and degree of hearing loss and the impact of hearing loss on the employee’s ability to perform adequately in the workplace, against the background of reasonable accommodation of the hearing-impaired person in his or her working environment. She concluded that, since the determination of fitness for work in the hearing-impaired employee is both complex and multi-faceted, a multidisciplinary approach to decision-making should be encouraged.

“Visual impairment and fitness-to-work” was delivered by Dr Theunis Botha, an ophthalmologist in private practice at the St George’s Hospital in Port Elizabeth. He gave a short introduction and summary of the legislation regarding visual impairment in the workplace in South Africa, and discussed visual function and its practical evaluation.

Dr Sarel Steyn, a clinical psychologist in private practice and CEO of the Wellness House in Port Elizabeth, discussed “Mental health and fitness-to-work”. He elaborated on the primary goals of a psychological ‘fitness-to-work’ evaluation which are to identify any mental health challenges that an employee might have and to determine the extent to which these might affect an employee’s ability to perform his or her job in a safe and effective manner. He stressed that these evaluations assist both the employee and employer by providing direction to utilise the best resources available; hence, the development of policies and procedures that leverage key resources in advance, is of utmost importance.

Dr Blanche Andrews, an occupational medicine specialist and advisor at Sanlam in Cape Town, gave the last presentation of the day titled “Training in the assessment of impairment and disability in the South African context”. She explained that a medical assessment provides a key entry point to accessing benefits that support affected individuals. In South Africa, approaches to training health professionals in performing impairment and disability assessments are often inconsistent, resulting in different levels of competencies. To address this training need, representatives from the academic, private and public sectors have collaborated in the development of a core curriculum and training programme that aims to develop capacity in the assessment of impairment and disability within South Africa. She ended by stating that further collaboration and work are needed to evaluate training needs and optimise existing approaches in this area.



At the AGM, Prof. Daan Kocks (SASOM Chair) read the 2019 Annual Report prepared by the SASOM 2019 National Secretary, Dr Jenny Sapire, highlighting the following activities and outcomes of the past year:

• The SASOM office bearers for 2020 were elected at the AGM:
Prof. Daan Kocks (Chair), Dr André Kotzé (Vice Chair), Dr Nicholas (Nick) van de Water (Secretary), Dr Angel Oliver Ndhlovu (Treasurer), and Dr Adriaan Combrinck (Alternate Treasurer).

• As at 31 October 2019, SASOM had 404 members in good standing. This number includes 46 new members, 11 honorary life members and five corporate memberships. Honorary life membership was awarded to Dr Danie Ungerer in 2019.

• Formal communication with organisations engaged in the enhancement of occupational medicine continued with SASOM ExCo members (co-opted) for the National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH), the Compensation Commissioner (CC), the International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH), the South African Society of Travel Medicine (SASTM), and the Mine Medical Professionals Association (MMPA).

• SASOM liaison with other organisations continued at both national and international levels, e.g. the South African Department of Labour and Employment (with SASOM being an active participant and contributor in the Occupational Health Forum); Occupational Health Southern Africa (OHSA) Journal; and the International Occupational Medicine Society Collaborative (IOMSC).

• SASOM Guidelines are provided free of charge to members in good standing, as a membership benefit. A new format has been implemented for the updating of the Guidelines, ensuring uniformity and adherence to the prescripts of the ISBN number system and copyright regulations. The Guidelines are continuously revised to ensure that they remain relevant for good practice in occupational health/medicine.

• The first Joint Congress of SASOM and the International Scientific Association for Occupational and Environmental Health in the Production and Use of Chemicals (MEDICHEM) was held at the Protea Hotel by Marriott OR Tambo International Airport, Gauteng, South Africa, and is briefly summarised below. SASOM is an affiliate member of ICOH and MEDICHEM acts as the ICOH Scientific Committee on Occupational Health in the Chemical Industry.



The theme of the Congress was Control of Substances Hazardous to Health: Old and Emerging Issues. Attendees were accredited with 26 CEUnits for full attendance, including  two  ethics  points  by  the South African Medical Association (SAMA) or four CEUnits by the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions (SACNASP). In a true reflection of global collaboration in occupational health, approximately 110 participants (including invited speakers, delegates and exhibitors) attended the Congress, representing 25 countries: Canada, China, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Kenya, India, Israel, Italy, Kuwait, Lesotho, Malaysia, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Switzerland, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.

The following MEDICHEM Awards were bestowed during the Joint Congress:

• Winner: Young  Professionals  Programme  (YPP) Award  
Dr Botembetume Maboso (Mafeteng, Lesotho), for his presentation “Assessing the burden of silicosis, TB and HIV among Basotho formerly employed in South African mines”

• Winner: MEDICHEM Prize – Ms Annelize Jacobs (Port Elizabeth, South Africa), for her presentation “World class occupational health in an emerging market environment”

• Runner-up:  MEDICHEM Prize – Dr Itumeleng Ntatamala (Cape Town, South Africa), for his presentation “Hard metal lung disease: old and emerging issues”

MEDICHEM held a half-day pre-Congress workshop, titled Chemicals: From Environment to Epidemiology.

The ICOH Officers Meeting was attended by the ICOH President, Dr Jukka Takala (Finland), the Secretary General Prof. Sergio Iavicoli (Italy), the two Vice Presidents, Prof. Seong-Kyu Kang (Republic of Korea) and Ms Claudina Nogueira (South Africa), and two members of the ICOH Secretariat staff (Italy), Mr Pierluca Dionisi and Mr Antonio Valenti.

The ICOH Regional (African) National Secretaries Meeting was chaired by Prof. Seong-Kyu Kang (ICOH Vice President for National Secretaries) and attended by the ICOH National Secretaries for Kenya (Dr Kibor Keitany), Nigeria (Dr Uche Enumah), South Africa (Prof. Daan Kocks), and Zimbabwe (Dr Blessing Garamumhango); the ICOH National Secretaries for Mali (Dr Birama Diallo) and Togo (Dr Silvere Kevi) attended remotely via Skype.



SASOM members have made good use of the new interactive and dynamic SASOM website, which was launched in October 2018 to replace the previous outdated version. A review of the monthly statistics for the website from January to October 2019 indicated a steady monthly increase in the number of visits (10–month total = 16 027), number of unique visitors (10–month total = 9 281), and pages opened and viewed by visitors (10–month total = 83 838). These three parameters increased substantially from July to October 2019, most likely due to interest generated in the Society by the SASOM-MEDICHEM Joint Congress participants and others.



SASOM is encouraging researchers working in the field of occupational health in Africa to publish their research findings. SASOM will provide a cash award to a novice author who is the first author of the best paper published in OHSA in a calendar year, as judged by the Editorial Advisory Panel. This new initiative is a collaboration between OHSA and SASOM, and the prize for 2020 will be awarded in January 2021. Eligibility for the prize is limited to researchers who have not previously published a paper in OHSA or any other accredited academic journal. Membership of SASOM is not a prerequisite.



SASOM members are reminded that renewal of their annual membership (or submission of a new application for membership) is due by 31 January 2020, to ensure receipt of all the OHSA issues for the year. Access to the ‘Members Area’ on the SASOM website will only be granted to paid-up members, with effect from 1 February 2020. Please access the website,, for more information.

More from this issue


Email address
Forgot password?