Strengthening the occupational hygiene sector in South Africa

In South Africa, there are less than 200 occupational hygienists. That equates to one hygienist for every 100,000 employees. As this statistic shows, it is a profession in scarce supply. And this compromises the ability of the mining industry to protect and promote the health and wellbeing of employees.

Cas Badenhorst, occupational hygiene specialist at Anglo American, believes that part of the reason may be the range of skills required for the role. “Occupational hygiene is a complex area and the necessary competencies vary from managerial skills to physics, chemistry and toxicology.”

Safety is core to our business at Anglo American, and we need a steady supply of occupational hygienists to make sure our working environments are fit for purpose and pose no danger.

That’s why we are working with the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) to create an occupational hygiene chair to be known as the Anglo American chair in occupational hygiene.

A commitment to occupational hygiene

Dr Frank Fox, lead in occupational health and medicine at Anglo American, provides some context. “Three years ago, Wits approached us with the idea for a chair and we immediately grabbed it, due to the shortage of occupational hygiene skills locally and globally. We saw this as a valuable opportunity to contribute to the development of the field and the profession.”

The chair will conduct research, and engage in other scholarly activities, with the aim of decreasing employee exposure to dust, noise and other health hazards in mining and other industries, thereby contributing to employee wellbeing.

With an investment of R15m (£870,000) to Wits over five years, we want to demonstrate our commitment to the university itself and the objective to improve the occupational hygiene sector across South Africa.

As well as creating and supporting a chair, the funding will:

  • Jointly develop and present short courses certified by Wits University, to enhance the skills and knowledge of current occupational hygiene practitioners.
  • Further develop the Master of Public Health (MPH) in Occupational Hygiene and the training of professional occupational hygienists.
  • Strengthen occupational hygiene in South Africa and Africa by increasing the number of students graduating with MPH and PhD degrees, and post-doctoral students.
  • Create African leaders in occupational hygiene through the PhD programme.
  • Strengthen national and international links with occupational hygienists and related organisations, and recruit expert local and international teachers for occupational hygiene degree programmes and short courses.
  • Develop an integrated knowledge repository to service the occupational hygiene needs of the mining industry, over a wide range of parameters.

Khanyisile Kweyama, executive director of Anglo American in South Africa, believes that this investment reinforces our commitment to health and safety and to the wellbeing of our people and communities.

“Our occupational health strategy and management approach are governed by a series of standards, guidelines and assurance processes aimed at preventing harm to our workforce. We are proud of our partnership with Wits University which leverages the institution’s leading research and teaching expertise across a wide spectrum of disciplines within the area of occupational health and hygiene. The partnership will further see a strengthening of the existing link between Anglo American and the university’s mining engineering degree,” concludes Kweyama.

With this level of partnership and effort, our goal of Zero Harm at all of our operations is an achievable one.

Click here to watch a video about the partnership

More from the Anglo American partner zone:

Content on this page is paid for and provided by Anglo American, sponsor of the social impact hub