11 November 2014
Anglo American is investing R15-million in a new Chair, to be known as the Anglo American Endowed Chair in Occupational Hygiene at the Wits School of Public Health
The Chair will conduct research and engage in other scholarly activities with the aim of decreasing employee exposure to dust, noise and other health hazards in mining and other industries, thereby contributing to employee wellbeing.
“The Wits School of Public Health has long been the forerunner in the country in research and postgraduate studies in occupational health,” said Professor Adam Habib, Wits’ vice-chancellor and principal. “We are very proud to have been granted the funds by Anglo American for this Chair and we are thankful that they are collaborating with us to strengthen our response to occupational hygiene, both in South Africa and Africa. The university’s responsiveness in this important field will advance our vision as a globally competitive and locally relevant university located in the economic and social hub of Africa.”
Khanyisile Kweyama, the executive director of Anglo American in South Africa, said: “This investment reinforces Anglo American’s commitment to health and safety and to the wellbeing of our people and communities, through partnerships with government, academia and other stakeholders.
“Our occupational health strategy and management approach are governed by a series of standards, guidelines and assurance processes aimed at preventing harm to our workforce. We are proud of our partnership with Wits University which leverages the institution’s leading research and teaching expertise across a wide spectrum of disciplines within the area of occupational health and hygiene. The partnership will further see a strengthening of the existing link between Anglo American and the university’s mining engineering degree,” she said.
Occupational hygiene is the discipline of anticipation, recognition, evaluation and control of health hazards in the workplace. Dr Andrew Swanepoel, senior lecturer and master of public health occupational hygiene co-ordinator in the Wits School of Public Health, explained: “Other examples of hazards that can be measured and controlled by occupational hygienists include airborne pollutants such as gases, fumes, noise, vibration, temperature extremes, and biological hazards such as Legionella bacteria. State-of-the-art equipment and systems, combined with high-level research and expert practitioners are needed to identify, monitor and control exposure to harmful dust, and all other mining industry-related health hazards.”
The university is well placed to conduct world-class research in occupational hygiene. For more than three decades, Wits academics from its School of Public Health, in partnership with the National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH), have been conducting ground-breaking research on mining-related diseases.
“The new partnership with Anglo American is particularly important, as the university was founded on the School of Mining almost a century ago,” said Swanepoel. “Mining continues to play a central role in shaping the social, political, economic and health landscape of South Africa and Africa today, where mining activities are rapidly expanding.
“Mining and occupational hygiene and health are inseparable and there is a severe shortage of occupational hygienists in South Africa and Africa. This, together with insufficient resources to support occupational hygiene, compromises the ability of the industry to protect and promote the health and wellbeing of employees,” he said.
The new Chair will build on the school’s track record and strengthen occupational hygiene by increasing the number of masters and PhD graduates, as well as post-doctoral fellows. Cutting edge research will enhance the health and wellbeing of workers in various industries.