On 18 August the NIOH hosted an Ethics in Occupational Health and Safety seminar at the Sunnyside Park hotel in Parktown Johannesburg, which focused on the enabling role of ethics in OHS in the quest for decent work and good service delivery.

The seminar was opened by Dr Sophia Kisting, executive Director of NIOH, who is passionate about the enabling role of ethics in OHS. Speakers who delivered presentations included: Prof Leslie London (UCT), Prof Rodney Ehrlich (UCT), Ms Claudina Noguira (Board member ICOH), Dr Murray Coombs, Dr. Cas Badenhorst (Anglo American), Mr Eric Gcilitshana (NUM)  and Mr. Charles Mbekeni (Chamber of Mines). There were two panel discussions; panel members included Prof Leslie London and Prof Rodney Ehrlich (Occupational medical specialists), Sr. Nodu Nolokwe and Sr Gail Gemell (Occupational nursing practitioners),  (Dr Cas Badenhorst & Mr Gopolong Sekobe (Occupational hygienists), Dr Salim Ahmed (Occupational medical practitioner), Ms Hannelie van Vuuren and Mr Eric Gcilitishana ( Trade Union Federations: Solidarity and NUM).

The speakers presented on topics including: Ethics in OH; Overview of the ICOH international code of ethics and changes in the 2014 version; Ethics in OH practice relating to SASOM guidelines; OHS clinical services – perspective from workers on challenges and possible solutions; Code of ethics for SAIOH;  and ethical dilemmas in OHS.

The topics of the two panel discussions were  “Ethical Challenges in the African Context” and  “Ethical challenges in compensation”. Both these topics stimulated much healthy discussion and debate amongst delegates. The first panel discussion covered the following questions:

  1. Do Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) professionals encounter dual loyalties?
  2. How can these dual loyalties best be managed in workplaces?
  3. How best can OHS professionals adhere to international best ethical practice in Africa?

The second panel discussion encompassed the following:

  1. What are the ethical concerns in our current compensation system?
  2. Does income based determination of compensation payments benefit workers in a country with major income inequalities?
  3. What are the potential ethical answers to our compensation challenges?

85 delegates attended the seminar of which 56 were from various OHS industries (both public and private), trade union federations and universities and the remainder of the delegates constituted senior staff members from NIOH.

Feedback received from delegates was mainly positive regarding speaker’s knowledge and discussions arising from the topic in question. Some comments mentioned that a broader ethical discussion needs to occur with Department of Health policy makers and all disciplines of OHS.
The NIOH has noted that more seminars on ethical challenges and concerns are requires and much more in depth discussion and debate needs to occur across OHS disciplines. A future seminar has been planned for 2016.