World Health Organization (WHO)

The NIOH is a designated World Health Organisation (WHO) Collaborating Centre (CC) in Occupational Health (OH) for four successive cycles.  The first designation was from 2005-2009, followed by 2011-2015, then third cycle (2015-2019), and we currently in our fourth cycle (2020-2024).

Prior to the first designation, the NIOH had a long-standing association with the WHO, and over the years has been involved in numerous WHO projects, such as WHO/SA Technical Cooperation Programme in Occupational Health and Safety, 1996-2003, and the ILO/WHO Joint Initiative for Global Silicosis Elimination. With its many contributions to the current Global Network Workplan of the WHO CC in OH, the NIOH continues to be an integral part of the global occupational health agenda.

A Declaration on Workers’ Health was compiled at the WHO meeting in Italy in June 2006, and emphasized the importance of occupational health and safety on the agenda of the WHO and all member countries. The declaration was signed by the Advisory Committee of the Global Network of WHO Collaborating Centres in Occupational Health and the institutions represented in this Advisory Committee were:

  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), USA
  • National Institute for Working Life (NIWL), Sweden
  • Finnish Institute for Occupational Health (FIOH), Finland
  • Institute for Pesticide Safety and Health Risk Prevention, Italy
  • National University of Singapore
  • National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH), South Africa

The Global Network of WHO Collaborating Centres is to stimulate networking between participating institutions and international partners to provide substantial contribution to the WHO’s goal of “occupational health and safety for all”; they are the “on-the-ground” actors, with capacities and networks in developed and developing countries, and play a key role in capacity building. WHO estimates that only about 10 to 15% of workers worldwide have some kind of access to occupational health services, and extending coverage is a key challenge.

The work of the network is carried out according to a global master plan (GMP) developed in consultations with the participating centres and partners; and is based on the needs of global and regional occupational health programmes.  The GMP contains seven [7] priority areas and activities that require networking and twinning arrangements among institutions in developing and industrialized countries, providing a basis for equitable progress of countries in different stages of development.

The current WHO CC Global Network Plan

The current GMP (2012-2017) for implementing the global Plan of Action (GPA) on workers’ health 2012-2017 by WHO and the global network of WHO CCs has seven [7] priorities:

Priority 1:  Regional and national programmes on occupational non-communicable diseases with, focus on cancer, silica and asbestos – related diseases

Priority 2: National programmes and good practices for occupational health and safety of health workers

Priority 3: Interventions, tools and standards for workplace health

Priority 4: Strengthening health systems, governance, capacities and service delivery for workers’ health

Priority 5: Global metrics of workers’ health

Priority 6: Classification, diagnostic and exposure criteria for occupational diseases

Priority 7: Knowledge networks on occupational health and safety for vulnerable groups and high risk sectors

A number of projects were submitted to the various Priority Areas, by occupational health institutes from all over the world, including the NIOH; the numerous accepted projects meet the following criteria – they are all regional, involve several Collaborating Centres and various countries, and have the objective of developing practical tools and solutions to improve workers’ health and working conditions. The work in each priority area is coordinated by one CC and an expert from WHO forming a coordination group.  The NIOH as a coordinating group is leading Priority 7, and will coordinate the global work in this area in the period 2017-2019.  The work will focus on the health of informal workers by strengthening evidence through systematic reviews and national case studies, strategizing for coordinated global action of stakeholders, and developing guidance and policy options for action by the health sector to improve the health and safety of poor informal economy workers.

The GMP also provides a guide for the development of individual workplans for designation and re-designation. The implementation of GMP activities by the institute for 2015 – 2019 is based on the following agreed activities and is also reflected in our annual reports to WHO (

Activity 1             WHO Guideline Development for the safety of nanomaterials in the workplace

Activity 2             Provision of HIV and TB workplace services for health workers in South Africa

Activity 3             Training of primary care providers in the delivery of essential interventions for workers’ health

Activity 4             Systematic review and meta-analysis of one priority occupational risk factor