Education for Health Africa offered the Introduction to Occupational Health Course at the Illovo Training Academy in Eston Kwa-Zulu Natal between the 7th and 11th October 2019. The course offered learners from Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique, eSwatini and South Africa insight into the exciting world of occupational health.
The “United Nations of Illovo” learners spent 5 days gaining insight into contemporary occupational health (OH) and best practice commencing with the International Code of Ethics for Occupational Health Practitioners (ICOH 2014).
For many learner’s occupational health was not their core focus, some even went as far as stating that they prefer primary healthcare (PHC). The challenge was on, change the minds of the those who prefer PHC and think that OH is boring. With the support of a 500+ page workbook and Karin Meyer an experienced occupational health nurse practitioner (OHNP) I started on a journey of sharing my love and passion for OH with 16 eager, bright and willing people from Africa.
On day 3, we had reached the stage where we were dealing with vulnerable workers and our role as OHNP’s in supporting this group of workers. It was time to integrate some practical exposure to the theory, we entered the Eston Mill to start assessing workers, factory conditions, check first aid boxes and learn about the working environment. Luckily it was an overcast day. The learners were escorted through the engineering workshop, the boilermaker workshop and the packing department. The employees of Illovo – Eston Mill took pride in telling us what their work entailed and demonstrated certain activities for the learners.
On day 4, health promotion and health education were the order of the day and students worked in groups to advise workers on the types, correct use and care of ear plugs to prevent noise induced hearing loss. Each person in the group was expected to say or do something during the presentation. After 4 days of hard work suddenly the personalities started to show themselves. Regina Waitati from Tanzania created the best surprise for us all with her presentation, she is a natural born facilitator. We all laughed, were engaged and remember her message to put in our ear plugs. Well done Regina!
On day 5 it was time to assess how much everyone had learnt, and what a surprise, everyone passed their theoretical assessment and course one of six had come to a sudden end and the weekend had arrived. The students now left saying that they “never knew how interesting, diverse and stimulating” occupational health was. As the facilitator I left feeling a little smug ( at the feedback regarding my chosen profession) and a little grateful to the learners for the feedback and appreciation and despite the language and cultural differences, we are all Africans sharing a oneness in the fascinating world of Occupational Health.
Thank you for your support as together we create a new era in occupational health training and education.