The National Institute for Occupational Health’s (NIOH) Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Tuberculosis (TB) in the Workplace unit, in collaboration with the Occupational Hygiene unit held a workshop on the dangers of HIV, TB, Silica and Asbestos dust related diseases in the construction industry. The workshop was held at Lapa La Afrika—a company that specialises in the demolition of buildings, including asbestos clearance.
The workshop was aimed at providing basic training on the prevention as well as workplace interventions for TB and HIV, Silica and Asbestos dust related diseases. Discussions included:
- HIV and TB workplace interventions
- Silica and asbestos dust exposure
- Diseases related to dust exposure
- Possible legal framework and collaborative ways that employers and employees can consider to promote collective responsibility for the health and safety of workers and visitors on site.
Workers were also trained on how to identify hazards in their working environment and shown how to wear personal protective equipment.
South Africa has one of the highest burden of TB and HIV, with an estimated 450 000 people acquiring the TB disease in 2014 (WHO), and a TB HIV co-infection of 73%. At least 6.7million adults (15 – 49 years) are living with HIV (UNAIDS), and the construction industry is among the worst affected industries, with the an HIV prevalence rate of 13.9% in 2007 (Construction management and economics, 2008).
The World Health Organization (GOHNET newspaper, 2007) reported that 30-40% of workers in high risk industries in developing countries suffer from Silicosis and other Pneumoconioses. Workers in the construction industry live a nomadic lifestyle and face various challenges, including:
- Lack of proper housing and family system
- No recreation facilities
- Long working hours
- Dangerous working conditions
- Migration (boredom, loneliness, isolation)
- Host communities (poverty, alcohol, sex).
- Lack access to health services
- Subcontracted workers
- Gender aspects
Work processes within the construction industry also expose workers to various biological, chemical, physical and psychosocial health hazards, including silica and asbestos dust. Thus construction workers are one of the most at risk populations due to the nature of their work. NIOH therefore saw it necessary to create awareness within construction industry.
Participants’ ages ranged from 23 to 59 years with the majority (>95%) being males. They all had secondary school education with a few having been to tertiary. The workshop was conducted in isiZulu, seSotho and English as indicated by participants’ preferences. Participants were given pre-training questionnaires to test their knowledge of the discussion topic.
The training was very interactive with participants showing enthusiasm by asking and answering questions. Participants were given certificates of attendance.