Prolonged exposure to dust, poor ventilation, and inadequate control of other related hazards pose a risk in work environments. In addressing this burden, the NEPAD Agency organized an intensive short course for occupational hygienists to build a pool of professionals that can anticipate, recognize, evaluate exposure, recommend appropriate measures and ensure adherence to international policies and standards. The short course took place in Kitwe, Zambia from 23 – 27 July 2018.

A total of 18 participants drawn from Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia attended the course. The course outlined broad principles of occupational hygiene as the foundation module of the Occupational Hygiene Training Association (OHTA). After the short course, participants appreciated the value of occupational hygiene and their role as occupational hygienists in ensuring companies adhere to professional ethics.

Mr. Norman Khoza, Senior Programme Officer: Occupational Health and Safety Specialist at NEPAD Agency said the short course will result in participants acquiring an international qualification on basic principles of occupational hygiene after successfully passing the international exam.

“At the end of the training we would like to have a 100% pass rate, participants should be able to understand the basic principles of occupational hygiene, to start discussing establishing the national occupational hygiene association or chapters,” Mr Khoza said.

Furthermore, this initial group of participants is taken as a cohort until a point where they will be fully registered and internationally recognized as occupational hygienists. Project countries will then use them as trainers and mentors for the new aspiring occupational hygienists. The course was provided under the Southern Africa Tuberculosis and Health Systems Support (SATBHSS) project as a partnership between NEPAD Agency, Workplace Health Without Borders (WHWB), government of Zambia (Ministries of Health, Mining, and Labour), University of Witwatersrand School of Public Health, and the South African National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH).

The course facilitators represented different organizations in their own rights. The course director, Mr John Jacob is the president elect of IOHA, and Ms Claudina Nogueira is the vice-president of ICOH while Mrs. Goitsemang Keretetse is a registered occupational hygienist with the Southern African Institute for Occupational Hygiene (SAIOH) and a Lecturer at the Wits School of Public Health.

During the course, participants shared information and experiences that will enable harmonization of approaches in the region. Occupational hygiene is a transboundary field that requires contributions from mining, labour, and health, as well as across countries. The course came in at the right time with emerging diseases and the introduction of technology in mining.

Participants in the course enhanced their knowledge in professional ethics and the management of occupational hygiene programmes, as well as their understanding of the various range of hazards in the work place (both physical and chemical). Participants also benefited from knowledge on different methods of controlling exposure, hazard recognition techniques including sources and potential routes of exposure and exposure evaluation, assessment and measurement processes.

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