The National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH) is a public health institute committed to supporting decent work in all sectors of the economy and to more equal, more productive, more gender inclusive and more sustainable workplaces. It is funded by working South Africans through money administered by the Department of Health. In this regard, we salute the enabling guidance and leadership of the Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi and Director-General of Health, Ms Precious Matsoso. The NIOH is a division of the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) and operates under the excellent guidance and support of the NHLS Board, chaired by Prof Barry Schoub and the very dedicated and forward looking NHLS CEO Mrs Joyce Mogale.
In this 60th year of the NIOH, we wish to acknowledge the significant contribution of numerous individuals and organisations towards the ongoing success of the Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety (OEHS) interventions of the NIOH. We acknowledge the significant and strategic support from the NHLS and from our government departments, in particular the Department of Health, Department of Labour, Department of Mineral Resources, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Environmental Affairs, Department of Defence, Department of Agriculture and Department of Correctional Services.
We acknowledge all the Employer Organisations and workplaces both in the public and the private sector as well as the informal economy. We salute the growing number of Trade Unions that continue to challenge us to greater engagement with workers from different sectors for a more positive impact on workplaces and better worker health.
Our research as well as teaching and training have benefitted enormously from the collegial interaction with all Schools of Public Health in South Africa and beyond and also from many different centres of higher learning. We acknowledge and appreciate the harnessing of this enabling interdependent spirit.
Concerted efforts were made in the past few years to provide subcontracted workers in the fields of security, cleaning and gardening services at the NIOH with training in various skills. These efforts have had encouraging results but more strategic efforts are needed to reach more workers in precarious work. The subcontracted workers proudly constitute the bulk of the members of the burgeoning NIOH choir. The choir provides the most beautiful renditions of national, regional and international songs often about working at many major public events. We are immensely proud of the contribution of each and every member of the choir and we know they are destined for a great musical future.
We acknowledge the important role of the dedicated NIOH Fitness Team as well as our fledgling NIOH Green Team. We trust that in making efforts to green our workplaces we may yet contribute towards efforts to stem the health and environmental effects of climate change.
Our appreciation goes to the many professional OEHS organisations and other entities that provide collegial support and encourage great collaborative work including the WHO, the ILO, UN Women, UNAIDS, NIOSH, HSE and FIOH as well as our sister institutes in English and French-speaking Africa, the BRICS countries and throughout the globe. We greatly value the newly cemented areas of South-South collaboration.
We owe a particular and deep gratitude to current and former staff and leaders of the NIOH, both academic and non-academic, for shaping and maintaining the institute into this internationally recognised accessible centre of excellence in OEHS research, teaching and training and service delivery.
There are numerous opportunities and challenges facing us within the world of work including the informal economy. Prevention in OEHS is amongst the most important of these in our country. We owe it to the many working women and men who become sick or injured or die to make a living to change the mindset from compensation to prevention. We owe it to them to work with greater urgency, greater commitment and above all greater courage to build a sustainable culture of prevention. In this context, authoritative unbiased information is a big gap in OEHS in South Africa and in the region. The NIOH will, therefore, continue to collaborate widely to play a greater role in information services, both proactive (developing and disseminating information) and reactive (response to OEHS queries).
We invite all the actors of the world of work and the broader South African public to join us on our journey of building on the good in our turbulent history and harness our collective more unified strength to utilise workplaces more optimally for decent and happier jobs, for the protection of human rights, for greater income equality as well as greater productivity and ultimately for more sustainable economies.
We invite you to visit the NIOH and see the permanent display of sixty years of engagement with occupational health and safety and the positive changes made by our history.