Frequently Asked Occupational Health Questions
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
Department of Labour
Phone: (012) 309 4387 Fax: (012) 309 4763
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.
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
Department of Labour
Phone: (012) 309 4387 Fax; (012) 309 4763
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.
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.
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.
The Diploma is offered at the following universities:
- University of the Witwatersrand
- University of Pretoria
- Stellenbosch University
- University of Cape Town
- University of KZN
- University of the Free State
For further information on the programs please visit each university’s website.
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.
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 6500i
Tel: 011 712 6555i
It is stated in the Asbestos Regulations:
Cleaning is done under controlled conditions ensuring that-
- Dry-brushing, scraping, sanding and abrasion techniques are not used;
- 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
- 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.
With regard to the contamination of water with asbestos-
- 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
- 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;
- That contaminated parts of the filtration system, when discarded, are disposed of as asbestos waste; and
- That appropriate measures are taken to prevent the release of asbestos dust into the environment arising from the transport of asbests.
At present, the NIOH does not have an accredited method for determining asbestos fibre volume in soil.
Since 2008, it is a legal offence to sell asbestos containing materials.
The NIOH has produced a pamphlet called “Noise in the workplace and ‘Buy-Quiet’ Policy”. See the pamphlet at the bottom of the page.
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:
Our Pathology Division does the asbestos identification in bulk samples using scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Their contact details are:
Prof Jim Phillips:
Tel: 011 712 6425
Tel: 011 712 6416
Tel: 011 712 6465
If you are planning to clean your roof before painting, do not use any abrasive materials or high pressure water jets that may result in release of fibres into the environment.
Asbestos Regulations 2001
DoL Criteria for registration as asbestos contractor
Registered Asbestos Contractors
DoL Guide for the application process of registering as an asbestos contractor
Wits MPH Brochure
Noise in the Workplace and Buy Quiet NIOH flyer
Environmental Enquiry Registration Form (Asbestos Relief Trustr and Kgalagadi Relief Trust) Guidelines for Environmetal Claimants
Approved Inspectoin Authorities