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/medicals (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.

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.

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

The OHSAct does not stipulate every condition and every circumstance that an employer might face regarding fitness to work in the workplace. The law requires the employer to assess the Health Hazards regarding each specific job, and to perform Medical Surveillance in accordance with these findings.

Please bear in mind that we are covering the OHSAct, the COID Act and BCEAct, all whist bearing in mind the requirements of the Employment Equity Act.

The principles of Occupational Health are two fold, one to ensure that the employee is healthy to do the work and the second, that the work he does doesn’t affect his health.

  1. The employee needs to be fit to do the work – potential hazards are: Injury to employee, damage to goods and equipment, injury to others.

The testing usually included is vision, blood pressure, diabetes, in depth medical  and surgical history, gross and fine motor co-ordination, etc.

Here are some extreme examples:

  1. If a person is an epileptic, we cannot allow him to drive a school bus.
  2. If a person is blind, they cannot operate a crane.

However, some conditions are controllable with treatment, and if the employee co-operates and is monitored, they can be found to be fit again, e.g. Blood pressure, diabetes, getting glasses….

  1. The work must not affect the health of the employee, resulting in a claim with the Compensation Commissioner – potential hazards are: Illness to the employee, disability.

Here we are looking at monitoring the employee’s lungs, hearing tests, blood levels for lead and other chemicals.

To elaborate on my point, here are some examples:

  1. An employee goes deaf from severe noise exposure
  2. An employee gets Silicosis from working with cement dust

This is just a basic explanation of the logic behind medical surveillance as practiced in South Africa.

Please feel free to contact us at HSP Group, should you require further information or wish to book a medical.