News » NIOH meeting for development of Human Resources
11 February - 20 February 2012

Purpose of the meeting:

The purpose of the recent meeting hosted by the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) was to discuss what Human Resources are needed for the Department of Health, in particular in terms of the development of the National Health Insurance (NHI).


A key area of concern that was to be addressed was that although primary health care was addressed in terms of medical practitioners, other health care practitioners were not considered in the government’s plan to build its human resources needed for effective health care in South Africa. Consequently, other disciplines who have either a direct or indirect impact on health care were invited to discuss how they see themselves fitting into the South African Health care system.

ESSA input?

ESSA was required to present a 15 minute presentation at the meeting, this was very ably done by Jessica Hutchings (the ESSA secretary). I would like to personally thank her for all the hard work and effort she put into the presentation and for actually attending the meeting on ESSAs behalf.

The focus of the presentation was on the role of ergonomics in occupational health and safety, the number of members in the society, what our programme for education and training in terms of continuing professional development is and the career path for Ergonomists.  

Issues highlighted at the meeting:

There was some debate in terms of where does ergonomics fit – is it occupational health or occupational safety. It was clarified that ergonomists should form part of a holistic team of professionals and practitioners who work together in both the realms of health and safety to ensure the optimization of the work environment.

Other areas that generated discussion in ergonomics related to the lack of normative models to estimate the number of ergonomists requires per 100 000 members of the working population. The lack of legislation on ergonomics was also noted, although both Claire Deacon and Schu Schutte have been consulting with the department of labour in this regard. Another comment was that ergonomics is too expensive, highlighting the need for good cost benefit analysis examples to be developed within the South African context.

It was concluded that a scope of practice for all the societies involved is needed. The ESSA committee will submit a five page document to NIOH highlighting the role that ergonomics can play in helping to improve occupational health and safety in South Africa.


It is evident that there are still misconceptions out there in the occupational health and safety community regarding the role of ergonomics in helping to improve working conditions and also in the effectiveness of ergonomics interventions.


However with that said we appear to be moving in the right direction with ergonomics being acknowledged as a role player, and increasing being asked to be involved in key decision making processes. This will be highlighted more in the chairman’s end of year newsletter which will be released shortly.