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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

versão On-line ISSN 2078-5135
versão impressa ISSN 0256-9574

SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. vol.98 no.12 Cape Town Dez. 2008




Occupational health in health care facilities in South Africa: Where does infection control stop and occupational health start?


Occupational health is vital in any industry to evaluate risks, control hazards, protect staff, and prevent occupational injuries and diseases. Occupational health and safety (OHS) needs in a health care setting are no different from those in a factory or other place of business. Even though the risks to health care personnel are different, the principles and applications are the same.

Health care workers, including professional staff such as nurses and doctors and support staff such as porters, cleaners, laundry personnel and clerks, are highly valued and there is a shortage of qualified, experienced staff in South Africa. There are numerous hazards in any health care facility, particularly exposure to infectious patients. However, OHS issues in the health care setting are not confined to communicable conditions; there are considerable other risks such as chemical exposures, stress, violence and musculoskeletal demands.1 This situation is not unique to developing countries. In the USA, for example, the health care sector is one of the few industries

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