Author(s): J. Garnett, D. Jones, G. Chin, JM. Spiegel, A. Yassi and N. Naicker

Source: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(5), p.1462.


Background: Tuberculosis (TB) is recognized as an important health risk for health bworkers, however, the absence of occupational health surveillance has created knowledge gaps  regarding occupational infection rates and contributing factors. This study aimed to determine the  rates and contributing factors of active TB cases in laboratory healthcare employees at the National  Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) in South Africa, as identified from an occupational surveillance  system.

Methods: TB cases were reported on the Occupational Health and Safety Information  System (OHASIS), which recorded data on occupation type and activities and factors leading to  confirmed TB. Data collected from 2012 to 2019 were used to calculate and compare TB risks within  NHLS occupational groups.

Results: During the study period, there were 92 cases of TB identified  in the OHASIS database. General workers, rather than skilled and unskilled laboratory workers and  medical staff, had the highest incidence rate (422 per 100,000 person‐years). OHASIS data revealed  subgroups that seemed to be well protected, while pointing to exposure situations that beckoned  policy development, as well as identified subgroups of workers for whom better training is  warranted.

Conclusions:  Functional  occupational  health  surveillance  systems  can  identify  subgroups most at risk as well as areas of programme success and areas where increased support is  needed, helping to target and monitor policy and procedure modification and training needs.

Keywords: tuberculosis; occupational health; occupational health surveillance; laboratory workers;  healthcare workers