39th Annual SASOHN Conference and AGM

Bella Sepalamelo, SASOHN Pretoria Chairperson, e-mail: msepalamelo@nti.co.za

The 39th Annual SASOHN Conference took place from 30 October to 1 November 2019 at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Pretoria, where the jacaranda trees were in full bloom in brilliant lilac and violet colours. SASOHN Pretoria region hosted the Conference and aligned presentations to meet, as far as possible, the following SASOHN goals:

• The promotion of the highest possible standards in occupational health practice; by encouraging accreditation and upgrading professional qualifications;

• The provision of a supportive network for occupational health nursing practitioners (OHNPs) working in a business environment, and a forum for sharing problems and experiences;

• The development of professional capacity and excellence through the presentation of workshops, conferences, and training projects, including specific efforts to keep members abreast of changes in technology and legislation;

• The encouragement of  cost-effective delivery of quality occupational health services in the country; and

• The promotion of adherence by organisations to the legal requirements set in terms of current South African and international legislation.

The theme of the 2019 Conference was Fifty Shades of Purple: Our Professional Image. The SASOHN Pretoria region wanted delegates to share a very different conference experience and deliberate on that image and how it is projected, and how to establish their own positive reputation. The selection of workshops and conference topics allowed SASOHN members to attend and accumulate continuous professional development (CPD) points.



The Conference started with three simultaneous workshops on Wednesday 30 October 2019, with presentations by experts in their respective fields.

Dr Sharon Vasuthevan presented the first workshop on “Professional Image’”, which focused on nurses and how they can develop and establish their professional reputations. She provided interesting insight into professional images and how to socialise with colleagues, professionally, by bringing out the best in ourselves and our peers. Her visual style of presenting allowed her to balance the text and image and to convey her message by demonstrating the similarities between herself and the audience; that, alone, encouraged the audience to engage with the topic.

The second workshop was presented by Ms Megan Hoskins, a ­psychiatric intake clinician and marketing liaison officer at Akeso Clinics, and Mrs Adriana Coetzee, the nursing services manager at Akeso. The presentation was on “Dual therapy in substance abuse and addiction”. Akeso is a group of psychiatric hospitals that manages patients with their own specialised programmes, which include a general psychiatry unit, a dual diagnosis addiction unit and an adolescent unit. They spoke about patients who go through difficult and transitional periods in their lives due to the death of a loved one, a divorce, or relationship conflicts. As Akeso, they believe that healing occurs through an integrated, proven process that involves a multi-disciplinary team of professionals and the highest international standards of clinical ethics and practice. Dual therapy, as provided by the Akeso group of hospitals, focuses not only on an individual’s treatment needs, but also on effective education and good support systems provided by families and communities. The presenters involved the audience throughout the presentation, and encouraged participants to break into small groups to discuss challenges that they face in their workplaces, and how to assist employees with addictions. 

The third workshop was presented by Mr Mpilo Booi on “Technological development in the prevention of noise-induced hearing loss”. Mr Booi is a hearing coach audiologist from Noise Clipper. He focused on the technological developments of noise-induced hearing loss and reiterated that, although OHNPs focus on the working environment, noise-induced hearing loss can start in the home or in social environments (e.g. from noise from buses). He further explained the types of hearing loss that damage the inner ear or auditory nerves, causing conductive hearing loss (temporary or permanent). The challenge with hearing loss is that once the damage is done it cannot be reversed. There are other causes of hearing loss, including infections, medications and ageing. He also indicated the equipment or devices that can be used to test hearing in both children and adults. 

The day concluded with a ‘Trip around the world’ cocktail event, where delegates could explore the four chosen continents, their diverse cultures, and the food. It was indeed an evening of fun under a fresh night sky, with delegates and exhibitors sampling delectable food from four continents’ stalls, while enjoying the dance floor, wine and soft drinks.



The second day started with an opening address by the SASOHN President, Ms Denise Minnie, who challenged members to align themselves, and SASOHN, to business values. By giving relevant feedback from meetings, workshops and conferences, the OHNP promotes the profession and adds value to the business.

The Conference sessions continued and Ms Milly Ruiters gave the first presentation on the Department of Employment and Labour’s expectations in relation to occupational health and safety (OHS). She communicated the importance of improving occupational healthcare services and intersectoral collaboration, the existing legislation, and involvement of all relevant stakeholders. 

Prof. Mavis Mulaudzi spoke about professional accountability and ethics in occupational health. She focused on ethical principles and reminded the OHNPs about critical and ethical decision-making and how to apply ethical principles in our daily practices by being caring and conscientious moral agents. 

Dr Karen Michel spoke about compliance and quality, and the implications of these on OH service delivery. She explored the perceptions of occupational health practitioners about compliance with existing legislation, quality of service delivery, and possible accreditation of OHS. She emphasised that occupational health should be accessible to all workers through quality OHS. The focus of the presentation was that the OHNPs should move out of their comfort zones and make their voices heard; they were encouraged to present on national and international events relevant to their practice.

The second session started with Dr Neale Lange, a physician and sleep specialist residing in the USA, presenting “Sleep and fatigue impact on the human body”. He provided valuable insight into the human body’s requirement for rest and sleep, and discussed his research findings on the effect of medication and other substances, as well as shift work, on a person’s sleep.

Mr Matthew Ncube, partner at Nhlupho Business Optimization Solutions, and a senior executive member of the International Labour Organization and World Health Organization joint initiative for occupational safety and health in Africa, presented “The fourth industrial revolution and its impact on occupational health practice”. The main question was: “are we ready for the fourth industrial revolution–what does occupational health look like in South Africa and the rest of Africa?” Mr Ncube provided some insight into the traditional role of occupational health systems and the journey we would have to take to adopt an integrated systems approach to create a resilient occupational health and safety culture in South Africa

Dr Penny Orton, lecturer at Durban University of Technology (DUT) and a member of the South African Nursing Council, spoke about how health informatics and e-learning can enhance occupational health practice. She provided valuable insight into how e-learning is managed and encouraged us all to embrace the available technology to ensure that we stay up to date with new developments in education and training.
Ms Annelize Jacobs, an OHNP working at Plascon in Port Elizabeth, discussed “Risk assessment in the hazardous chemical industry”, and the importance of conducting risk assessments in the chemical ­industry. She focused on appropriate medical surveillance and biological monitoring. She also provided feedback on her experiences in a project that gave an in-depth insight into accurate record-keeping and data management to ensure compliance with relevant regulations.

Dr Sebolelo Seape, a specialist psychiatrist working in the private and public sectors, presented “The impact of mental health conditions on occupational health services”. She focused on early identification, treatment, care and management of these challenging health conditions, and provided evidence-based, national and global statistics.

The final presentation was by Dr Elton Dorkin and Dr Vanessa Govender. Both doctors are involved in occupational health services in the mining industry. They presented “Navigating the currents of occupational health with a focus on mining” and concentrated on occupational lung diseases that pose a threat to past and current mine workers. They also discussed the challenges of the long latency periods of these diseases, which can develop many years after employees have left the mines. They updated the delegates on the latest developments regarding court judgments. As per the silicosis class action settlement, involving six gold mining companies, mine workers (and their dependants on behalf of them), who were in their employ from 1965 onwards, can claim compensation for silicosis and tuberculosis. The Tshiamisu Trust is being established for this purpose.



The SASOHN Gala Dinner was well attended by SASOHN members and proved to be another memorable night, where members who performed exceptionally were recognised by the SASOHN President. The following awards were presented:

Pretoria Conference Organising Committee with SASOHN President, Denise Minnie, at the Gala Dinner (L–R) — front: Kim Davies, Louwna Pretorius, Tirsa Barnard, Elizabeth Sebata, Bella Sepalamelo, Denise Minnie, Motlagomang Monyaki; back: Alta Kruger, Geoff Titi, Godiragetse Sithole, Gloria Mabe, Daizy Lawrence, Katekani Maluleke Photograph: Theresa Bezuidenhout


Every year, SASOHN has a poster competition at the Annual Conference to encourage members to share valuable evidence-based practice cases or discoveries related to occupational health. Applicants may enter their posters as formal or informal research. This year, nine entries were received, with one overall winner of the competition (Amanda van Jaarsveld).



SASOHN would like to express our heartfelt appreciation to all exhibitors, sponsors and delegates for their support and attendance at the Conference.

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