Author(s): Zungu, M., Yassi, A., Ramodike, J., Voyi, K., Lockhard, K., Jones, D., Kgalamono, S., Thunzi, N., Spiegel, J.

Source: Saf Health Work 2023; 14:368-374


Background: Recognizing that access to safe and healthy working conditions is a human right, the World Health Organization (WHO) calls for specific occupational safety and health (OSH) programs for health workers (HWs). The WHO health systems’ building blocks, and the International Labour Organization (ILO), highlight the importance of information as part of effective systems. This study examined how OSH stakeholders access, use, and value an occupational health information system (OHIS).

Methods: A cross-sectional survey of OSH stakeholders was conducted as part of a larger quasi experimental study in four teaching hospitals. The study hospitals and participants were purposefully selected and data collected using a modified questionnaire with both closed and open-ended questions. Quantitative analysis was conducted and themes identified for qualitative analysis. Ethics approval was provided by the University of Pretoria and University of British Columbia.

Results: There were 71 participants comprised of hospital managers, health and safety representatives, trade unions representatives and OSH professionals. At least 42% reported poor accessibility and poor timeliness of OHIS for decision-making. Only 50% had access to computers and 27% reported poor computer skills. When existing, OHIS was poorly organized and needed upgrades, with 85% reporting the need for significant reforms. Only 45% reported use of OHIS for decision-making in their OSH role.

Conclusion: Given the gap in access and utilization of information needed to protect worker’s rights to a safe and healthy workplace, more attention is warranted to OHIS development and use as well as education and training in South Africa and beyond.

Keywords: Health information system; Health workers; Worker rights; Information system; Occupational health