In the Occupational Health & Safety Act no.85 of 1993, reference is made to ‘medical surveillance’ and is defined as a planned programme of periodic examination (which may include clinical examinations, biological monitoring or medical tests) of employees by an Occupational Health Practitioner or, in prescribed cases, by an Occupational Medical Practitioner.

In addition to the above, section 12.1(a) says that the employer must identify the hazards and evaluate the risks associated with such work to the health of the employee, take all reasonably practicable steps to mitigate the hazards and risks, and then based on the nature of the:

1.risks identified

2.levels of exposure

to such hazards carry out an occupational hygiene programme, biological monitoring, and subject the employees to medical surveillance.

Now, for example if one would conduct a health risk assessment on-site in order to determine the risks associated with preforming the task of operating an overhead crane, surely a reasonably practicable conclusion would be that one of the risks posed by the use of an overhead crane is having the operator injuring people/structures due to incorrect placement/moving of the items. Based on that identified risk one would then need to determine the far, near and intermediate visual acuity of the individual in order to verify that the operator can safely operate an overhead crane.

In general, the organisations that conduct crane and forklift training require a vision test and in some cases even a physical assessment to exclude uncontrolled diabetes, epilepsy and hypertension prior to issuing a certificate of competence at the time of renewal of the crane/forklift licence.

The Noise Induced Hearing Loss Regulations are by far the harshest and easiest for the Department of Labour to monitor and enforce. NIHL Reg 8 specifies the requirements for Medical Surveillance and the need for a baseline within 30 days of starting employment, regular periodic checks and other prescribed standards to be followed. Reg 11 specifies the requirements for keeping of these records for 40 years. This standard pretty much sets the precedent on how seriously the medical surveillance programmes in companies are run.

Other important references would include:

  • Construction Regulations 2014 Regulation 7(8).
  • The Driven Machinery Regulations: Entrance Qualifications and Conditions sect 2 (a).
  • The Maritime Occupational Safety Regs
  • The Code of Safe Working Practice for Ships Working Cargo in South African Ports.
  • MineHealth and Safety Act, 1996- system of medical surveillance

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