A Strategic Programme in Occupational Safety and Health Phase I, 2004 – 2008

A Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)-funded initiative in Southern Africa, in collaboration with:

Purpose and Background

The overall purpose of the WAHSA Programme is to contribute to poverty reduction by social and economic development in the SADC region through improvements in occupational safety and health. The Programme is envisaged to extend over 12 years, the first four-year phase being from 2004 to 2008.

The SADC Region has a population of approximately 200 million and a combined GDP of US $ 190 billion. However, despite economic potential, under-development is a feature of the region, to which the debilitating effects of poor occupational safety and health contribute. This Programme proposal represents an integrated effort with existing programmes on Occupational Safety and Health in various SADC Sectors (Employment and Labour; Health; Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources; Human Resource Development; Environment and Land Management and Mining) and with other international efforts in the SADC Region. The Programme will also promote South-North cooperation between Southern Africa and Sweden / Scandinavia in the working life field. In time, South-South collaboration with similar initiatives in Central America will be pursued. On the Swedish side, Swedish National Institute of Public Health is a partner in the Programme.

The long-term goals of this Programme are to contribute to the reduction of poverty and promotion of human rights and the empowerment of the region’s workers. The WAHSA Programme is able to contribute to these goals through:

  • Improving economic performance. Occupational health promotes productivity and the competitiveness of enterprises and reduces poverty of injured workers and their families. “Health is wealth” is clearly understandable in this context.
  • Stabilization of society is enhanced by reducing the pool of marginalized and disaffected injured and diseased workers; by promoting fairness and equity in society; by giving effect to provisions of national constitutions and statutes.
  • Improved general health is promoted by integrating health promoting activities into occupational health services. An accessible population is available, for example, for smoking reduction and HIV prevention actions.
  • Environmental considerations are taken by programmes that reduce workplace pollutants, manage waste products and reduce the inappropriate use of agricultural chemicals.
  • Capacity to effect change is strengthened through advocacy and improved knowledge and skills of the social partners.

The highest organ of SADC endorsed this proposal. The proposal was developed over a number of years with SADC officials, occupational health stakeholders (including employer and employee representatives) and occupational health professionals and agencies from the SADC Region and from Sweden. The SADC officials were from all the appropriate sectors, including Labour and Health. Many of the Region’s major occupational health and safety institutions supported the proposal’s activities.

Sida’s contribution to Phase I was SEK 20 million, of which four million was allocated to the Swedish partners and 16 million to Southern African partners.

Overall Goal and General Objectives of WAHSA Phase I

  • The overall goal of the Programme is to contribute to poverty reduction in the Region and promote human rights
  • The general long-term objective is to promote workers’ safety and health, and create sustainable systems for Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) and public health promotion
  • The objective for the first four years (Phase I) is to establish a solid and well operating basis for long-term actions in OSH, and health promoting works by:
    • Strengthened OSH capacity in the region
    • Reliable information to plan actions to improve OSH in the region
    • Raised awareness in the region about the value of healthy work
    • OSH improved in three key areas, silica, silicosis and tuberculosis; pesticides; informal small scale enterprises

Indicators for objectives’ attainment by the end of the four years:

  • Three Resource complexes established & access to OSH information improved
  • Country and community profiles on the extent of occupational diseases and injuries carried out; inventories of key workplaces and sentinel sites for future interventions
  • OSH questions for household surveys compiled and offered
  • Information and a co-ordinating mechanism to plan OHS training
  • Case studies of successful interventions in OSH in the countries compiled and a high-level tripartite conference held
  • Information packages on dust and its control developed and disseminated to workers, managers, inspectors and practitioners; seminars on dust control for 3 different dusty industries and labour inspectors developed and presented; and recommendations from expert-group meetings published
  • A functioning regional pesticide network. Interventions on surveillance, the effectiveness of hazard communication strategies, risk perceptions of users, the effectiveness of different methodologies of pesticide safety training, and the economic and health consequences of pesticides completed
  • OSH policy for small scale enterprises developed and presented to SADC, including a plan for its implementation
  • Information packages and training courses developed and disseminated. Risks and health outcomes determined

Phase I of the WAHSA Programme was organized into 10 projects (overall activities). Three action projects addressed common and important occupational health issues in Southern Africa: the health effects of silica, pesticide exposure and work in the informal sector. The remaining seven projects were concerned with research into current health and safety conditions, the development of a regional strategy on the training of health and safety professionals, and promoting advocacy for and awareness of workers’ health and safety in the SADC Region.

Target Group

Government departments of SADC member countries, the SADC Directorates involved in occupational health and OSH agencies in the Region, employers and employees, and their organizations, and OSH practitioners in the region.

Current Status

Phase I of the WAHSA Programme has come to an end, and the funding agency Sida has withdrawn its support for a possible Phase II. The partnerships and activities which were established and developed in Phase I will only be sustainable in the SADC Region should alternate funding become available; to this end, a number of alternative funding sources are currently being considered regarding the continuation of the WAHSA Programme.

WAHSA Project 7 – Action on Silica, Silicosis and Tuberculosis

The NIOH is responsible for the coordination and facilitation of Phase I of WAHSA Project 7: Action on Silica, Silicosis and Tuberculosis, in the SADC Region.

The collaborative institutions that are part of the Resource Complex for Project 7 are the NIOH; the School of Public Health of the University of the Witwatersrand; the Occupational Health Management (OHM) Board in Kitwe – Zambia; the Centre for Industrial Studies, Safety and Environment (CEISA), at the Faculty of Engineering, Eduardo Mondlane University, Maputo – Mozambique; the Department of Labour, Occupational Health and Safety Inspectorate – Lesotho; and the Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS) in Dar es Salaam; Tanzania.

Project 7 Achievements

A number of activities linked to the WAHSA Programme were carried out by the NIOH and its WAHSA Project 7 collaborating institutions in SADC countries during Phase I, in fulfilment of the outreach function of the NIOH. In addition, various information materials were produced and disseminated widely in the SADC Region, and are available from the Project 7 Management Team at the NIOH.

  1. A fully equipped dust measuring laboratory with microbalance was established at CEISA, Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo, Mozambique in June 2008, and is fully operational. The primary aim of this facility is to assist with routine dust measurements to assess and improve workplaces. In particular, the dust laboratory will be extensively used for the quarry intervention work, and for training in dust measurement in Mozambique.
  2. A paper was prepared on Project 7 activities, Years 1-4, and submitted for inclusion in the WAHSA publication disseminated at the WAHSA Stakeholders Meeting held in Gaborone in September 2008.
  3. Interventions to reduce silica dust were initiated in key workplaces. The sector of choice was the quarry industry – it is diverse and complex, spanning a wide range of very different processes with many dust generating activities. Three resource-poor, low-technology quarries were identified in the Region (Zambia, Lesotho and Mozambique), and intervention work plans were implemented at each quarry. The overall goal of these activities was to improve dust control in the quarries in the SADC Region, by designing, implementing and evaluating recommended dust control solutions; successful solutions will be published and disseminated to enforcement agencies and the quarry industry sector in Southern Africa in due course.
  4. Project 7 Information materials were developed, finalised and disseminated:
    • An Instructors’ Guide (course content, exercises and practical field work) for the silica dust measurement and control seminar appropriate for the Region was completed and is available for use in the Region. It includes course outline, teaching session contents, exercises, field work etc.
    • A Silica Resource containing a set of CDs and DVDs was repackaged for the WAHSA Programme and distributed to SADC countries, for implementation by practitioners.
    • A publication for quarry managers and health and safety officials, to promote dust control in the Region was completed – Control of Dust in Resource-Poor Quarries in Southern Africa. This publication was revised in Year 4 based on practical field experience and comments, and is ready for distribution in the Region.
    • A desktop notepad was developed and designed as the general information package on silicosis. It is available for distribution in the Region.
    • A publication – Crystalline Silica Health Hazards and Precautions – contains new information on silica, silicosis and TB for practitioners in the Region, and has been distributed electronically.
    • A guideline arising from the Expert Group Meeting – Guideline on Isoniazid Preventative Therapy (IPT) for patients with silicosis in Southern Africa – held in Mozambique, was completed and disseminated to practitioners in the Region.
    • A DVD was developed for the seminars on Silica Dust Measurement and Control for Inspectors – held in Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania during WAHSA Phase I.
    • Preventing Silicosis: A Guide for Health and Safety Reps is in the process of being finalised. It is a manual which addresses the need for the role of the H&S reps – elected by fellow workers, directly on the ground. It reviews existing silicosis research and has all the relevant information in one place.
    • A report on the Regional Coordination of Silicosis Elimination, which can be obtained from the OHMB in Zambia.
    • The development of A Guideline for the Surveillance of Silicosis and Silica-related Diseases in Southern Africa is in progress. This guideline will be the official output of the Expert Group Meeting on Medical Surveillance of Silicosis and Silica-related Diseases, held in Zanzibar in November 2008. It is expected that the guideline document will be completed and disseminated in the second half of 2009.