OEHS in the Construction Industry

The construction industry is usually one of three industries having the highest rate of work-related injury risk. The hazards associated with construction work include traumatic injury, chemical, physical, biological, poor ergonomics and psycho-social hazards. These hazards can cause occupational and work-related diseases, which are defined as diseases caused by exposure to occupational hazards encountered in the course of work carried out under a contract of employment.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) it is estimated that 60 000 fatalities occur at construction sites every year, globally. Even with these established exposures for occupational injuries and diseases in the construction industry, there is a lack of data and data sources for occupational diseases in particular, and thus lack of epidemiological data on the burden of occupational diseases in the construction industry.

In South Africa, occupational and environmental health and safety (OEHS) for the construction industry is regulated in the main by the Department of Labour, through the Occupational Health and Safety Act, no. 85 of 1993 (OHS Act) and associated regulations. The OHS Act places obligations on employers (including agents and contractors) to ensure the health and safety of employees; these include baseline risk assessment before any site works and the notification of construction work to the Department of Labour.

With this in mind, the National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH) will be hosting a one day consultative workshop on occupational health and decent work for the construction industry.

This NIOH workshop will be a platform of knowledge sharing and paving a way forward to improving the OEHS for construction workers in South Africa. The workshop aims:

  • To outline the relevant legal and legislative framework for OEHS
    in particular
    the prevention of occupational diseases in the construction industry.
  • To highlight the burden of occupational diseases in the construction industry and compensation needs.
  • To discuss the provision of preventative OEHS services including occupational risk assessment; and medical surveillance while emphasizing a gender inclusive and ethical approach in the construction industry
  • To discuss challenges and opportunities to nurture prevention strategies in Occupational Health for occupational diseases.
  • To identify participatory research projects that will enhance collaboration to improve conditions of work and OEHS.


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