FAQs

Frequently Asked Occupational Health Questions

1What are the procedures to follow when registering a contractor to handle asbestos?

The Department of Labour (DoL) is the responsible body for Registered Asbestos Contractors. For further information, you can contact:

Deputy Director Occupational Health and Hygiene
IES Branch
Department of Labour
Phone: (012) 309 4387 Fax: (012) 309 4763
www.labour.gov.za

2Our office has an asbestos roof. Does this pose a health risk to occupants and how?

Generally speaking, asbestos containing materials (ACMs), such as asbestos-cement roofs, do not seem to pose a health risk to occupants, provided they are maintained in good condition and the materials are not disturbed in any way (by processes such as cutting, drilling, high pressure water cleaning, etc). Only if the ACMs are disturbed by such processes in an uncontrolled manner, and fibres get dispersed into the air and inhaled, there might be a significant health risk.

The Asbestos Regulations require that any ACMs in a building are kept in good condition and an inventory is kept on the premises of their location, condition and extent. Any person performing work on these materials must be informed and trained, and take the necessary precautions (such as wearing a respirator mask and wetting the material beforehand) to minimize the risk and protect their health.

See Asbestos Regulation and Information pamphlet below.

3The roof tiles of our new house contain asbestos. We want to remove the tiles. What are the regulations?

The current asbestos legislation requires that any removal of asbestos and asbestos containing materials (ACMs) is carried out by a Department of Labour Registered Asbestos Contractor (RAC) under controlled conditions. Work on ACM can be done by persons other than RAC, provided they follow the work safe procedures as outlined in the Regulations (see particularly section 15).

See Asbestos Regulations, List of RACs and Information Pamphlet below.

For further information on RACs, contact the Department of Labour

Deputy Director Occupational Health and Hygiene
IES Branch
Department of Labour
Phone: (012) 309 4387 Fax; (012) 309 4763
www.labour.gov.za

4What is the process to follow in booking an appointment for an employee at the NIOH, for determination of a possible occupational disease?

The clinic days at the NIOH are Tuesday to Thursday on alternative weeks from 08h00 in the morning. Patients are seen on an appointment basis. The number to call is 011 712 6426/ 6462 to make a booking. The following is requested from all referrers:

- Name and Surname of the client,
- ID number and copy,
- Physical and postal address of the company referring,
- Vat number of the company referring,
- Name and contact of the person referring,
- Referral letter with brief occupational history and reasons for referral,
- MSDS- Material Safety Data Sheet of what the client is exposed to.

Upon receiving the above, an appointment date will be allocated.M/p>

5Our ceiling is of asbestos origin and has never been changed in 30 years. It has a foul smell. Is this hazardous?

Asbestos is an inert material and does not have any smell. It is a serious health risk when dry asbestos fibre dust is present in the air. However, if the ceiling does contain asbestos and is deteriorating it should be repaired, sealed and replaced. There is a legal obligation to keep a register of any asbestos materials on site and only DoL Registered Asbestos Contractors are allowed to remove/ replace asbestos containing materials. Any work on asbestos materials must be performed by trained personnel, taking the necessary precautions.

See information pamphlet and Asbestos Regulations below.

6I had the ceilings of my house, which contained asbestos removed by breaking them and letting them fall on the floor 7 years ago. My children keep falling sick every now and then. Could this be attributed to the asbestos dust that could have found its way into crevices and roof timbers?

Exposure to asbestos has been linked to the development of serious lung diseases, among them cancer and asbestosis (asbestosis is more linked to heavy, occupational exposure). What is common to all asbestos related diseases is a long latency period,
i.e. disease only manifest years after being exposed (typically 15-50 years) following exposure. It is therefore, very unlikely that your children falling ill, is in anyway asbestos related.

7I am a Medical Doctor and would like to do the Diploma in Occupational Health with your Institution. What is the application process?

The Diploma is offered at the following universities:

  1. University of the Witwatersrand
  2. University of Pretoria
  3. Stellenbosch University
  4. University of Cape Town
  5. University of KZN
  6. University of the Free State

For further information on the programs please visit each university’s website.

8I am interested in pursuing Masters in Public Health in the field of occupational hygiene. What is the application process?

The School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand offers the Masters in Public Health (MPH) in the field of occupational hygiene in collaboration with the NIOH. For further information on the MPH see the brochure from Wits below.

See MPH Wits brochure below.
9ow do I get a quotation for an Occupational Hygiene Survey that needs to be done at my work place?

The Occupational Hygiene Department of the NIOH provides information and advice about occupational health and safety to help promote safe and healthy working environments. To request a quotation use the contact details below:

Mrs Jeanneth Manganyi
Tel: 011 712 6500
Email: jeanneth.manganyi@nioh.nhls.ac.zap

Tebogo Nthoke
Tel: 011 712 6555
Email: tebogo.nthoke@nhls.ac.za

10What are the regulations regarding the cleaning of an asbestos roof?

It is stated in the Asbestos Regulations:

Under 15(1):

Cleaning is done under controlled conditions ensuring that

  1. Dry-brushing, scraping, sanding and abrasion techniques are not used;
  2. Where reasonably practicable, high-pressure water jetting is not used unless in conjunction with a suitably profiled hood that limits dispersal of contaminated water and, if the said jetting is used, that suitable control methods are used in accordance with regualtion 13(2)(b); and
  3. When fungicidal solution or moss killer is applied, a standing time of 24 hours or any other period specified by the manufacturer is allowed, and a low-pressure hose is used after such a period to keep the sheets wet whilst employing a stiff broom any similar means to remove any moss or lichens.

Under 13(2):

With regard to the contamination of water with asbestos

  1. That any water that is contaminated with asbestos as a result of work being performed is passed through a filtration system before being released into any environment or water system; and
  2. That a suitable water filtration system is used which will ensure that the asbestos being released or entering into any environment or water system is reduced as far as is reasonably practicable;
  3. That contaminated parts of the filtration system, when discarded, are disposed of as asbestos waste; and
  4. That appropriate measures are taken to prevent the release of asbestos dust into the environment arising from the transport of asbests.
11I have soil samples that I would like to have tested for asbestos fibres. What is your method of determining the fibre volumes?

At present, the NIOH does not have an accredited method for determining asbestos fibre volume in soil.

12Is it legal to sell asbestos containing materials to the public?

Since 2008, it is a legal offence to sell asbestos containing materials.

13I am looking for information on hearing conservation and noise induced hearing loss, do you have pamphlets that can provide that kind of information. 

The NIOH has produced a pamphlet called “Noise in the workplace and ‘Buy-Quiet’ Policy”. See the pamphlet at the bottom of the page.

14What are the minimum requirements for removing of asbestos sheets of a roof?

As specified in the Asbestos Regulations, 2001, working or dismantling of asbestos cement products must be carried out under strict controlled conditions to prevent exposure to asbestos fibres and environmental contamination. These conditions are stipulated particularly in sections 15, 11 and 13 of the Regulations.

For further advice you can contact:

Elize Lourens
Deputy Director Occupational Health and Hygiene
IES Branch, Department of Labour
Phone: (012) 309 4387; Fax: (012) 309 4763
Email: elize.lourens@labour.gov.aza www.labour.gov.za

15Does the NIOH have a laboratory that does asbestos identification in bulk samples?

Our Pathology Division does the asbestos identification in bulk samples using scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Their contact details are:

Prof Jim Phillips:
Email: jim.phillips@nioh.nhls.ac.za


Tel: 011 712 6425

Trudie Vorster:
Email: trudie.vorster@nioh.nhls.ac.za
Tel: 011 712 6416

Ntebogeng Kgokong
Email: ntebogeng.kgokong@nioh.nhls.ac.za
Tel: 011 712 6465