BACKGROUND Globally, access to occupational health and safety (OHS) by workers has remained at
very low levels. The organization and implementation of OHS in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and
Botswana has remained at suboptimal levels. Inadequacy of human resource capital, training, and education
in the field of OHS has had a major negative impact on the improvement of worker access to such services in
expanding economies. South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Botswana have expanding economies with
active mining and agricultural activities that pose health and safety risks to the working population.
METHODS A literature review and country systems inquiry on the organization of OHS services in the
4 countries was carried out. Because of the infancy and underdevelopment of OHS in southern Africa,
literature on the status of this topic is limited.
RESULTS In the 4 countries under review, OHS services are a function shared either wholly or partially
by 3 ministries, namely Health, Labor, and Mining. Other ministries, such as Environment and Agriculture,
carry small fragments of OHS function. The 4 countries are at different stages of OHS legislative
frameworks that guide the practice of health and safety in the workplace. Inadequacies in human
resource capital and expertise in occupational health and safety are noted major constraints in the
implementation and compliance to health and safety initiatives in the work place. South Africa has a
more mature system than Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Botswana. Lack of specialized training in occupational
health services, such as occupational medicine specialization for physicians, has been a major drawback
in Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Botswana.
DISCUSSION The full adoption and success of OHS systems in Southern Africa remains constrained.
Training and education in OHS, especially in occupational medicine, will enhance the development and maturation of occupational health in southern Africa. Capacitating primary health services with basic occupational
health knowledgewould be invaluable in bridging the current skills deficit. Introducing short courses
and foundational tracks in occupational medicine for general medical practitioners would be invaluable.
Ukpe, I.S. (Indongesit Sunday)(Association of Schools of Public Health, 2008-03)
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