Ford South Africa has donated R2.5-million to help fund the enhancement of the National Occupational Health Surveillance System (OHSS), a programme implemented by the National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH).
The OHSS monitors workers in the public and private sectors using data supplied by employers on Covid-19 infections in the workplace under the direction of the Department of Employment and Labour.
The data helps to identify industries and occupational groups at risk of infection and analyses the impact of Covid-19 on industries and occupational groups.
The data is used to inform appropriate interventions, including policies, programmes or resources, to mitigate the spread of the disease.
Experts from the NIOH, which is a division of the National Health Laboratory Service, a public entity of the national Department of Health, have been assisting government on Covid-19 workplaceguidelines and procedures, surveillance, online training and education, as well as research.
The team has produced various educational and awareness materials to cater for all categories of employers and employees.
While the current focus is primarily on Covid-19, the OHSS has been developed to monitor all occupational diseases.
“The Covid-19 pandemic hit the people of South Africa extremely hard, whether directly through suffering the effects of the disease or losing loved ones, or by virtue of the long-term economic fallout and resulting job losses,” says Ford South Africa MD Neale Hill.
“It became abundantly clear during this global health crisis that we need a coordinated, data-driven and strategic approach to understanding and handling the pandemic, targeting specific areas of concern.
“Therefore, helping fund the NIOH surveillance system with the R2.5-million donation is the logical next step in our commitment to partnering with national government as it rolls out this project to ensure that the country is better equipped and resourced to manage this health crisis, and any others that may follow.”
NIOH executive director Dr Spo Kgalamono says Ford’s R2.5-million donation is a valuable contribution to support the work being done around Covid-19.
“The OHSS project is a huge task, considering its national scale and potential coverage of workplaces with greater than 50 workers.
“It requires a dedicated and experienced team, human and physical resources, technological advances and expertise, as well as training and awareness to meet the requirements of the system,” she explains.
“Currently, the system that is developed is a pilot programme, the first of its kind in South Africa, that gathers occupational health intelligence to ultimately protect workers’ health.”
The development of the OHSS arose as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic and was a joint development between the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the NIOH.
The donation from Ford will assist the institute by improving and maintaining hardware, upgrading and further developing the operating systems and data visualisation, as well as developing and creating data links with employers in the formal sector.