Essential workers continue to work tirelessly to combat the Covid-19 outbreak. This National Women’s Day, we honour four extraordinary occupational health experts who are leading the country on national Covid-19 guidelines and procedures, online training and education, as well as surveillance and research, in order to promote health and safety in workplaces across South Africa.
The team of women are part of the national Covid-19 Occupational Health Outbreak Response Team (OHORT), which brings together various experts and collectively carries out rigorous daily online training across several sectors of society to mitigate the burden of the disease.
Essential frontline healthcare workers, CEOS, paramedics, government departments, and retailers are some of the many sectors these women have provided training in dealing with Covid-19 cases. Training sessions include, among others: what employers should do when a worker tests positive, control measures for workplaces, screening protocol, cleaning and decontamination procedures, and the correct methods of wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).
The four women are also leaders from the National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH), a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre and a Centre of Excellence.
Dr Spo Kgalamono
A renowned expert in occupational medicine and currently the acting executive director for the NIOH, Kgalamono has over 20 years’ experience in occupational health and holds a joint appointment at Wits University’s School of Public Health.
She is the recipient of many awards, and has been recognised by the Public Health Association of South Africa as one of the three most influential women in public health in South Africa. Kgalamono sits on several committees including the International Working Group on Occupational Diseases, and the Medical Bureau for Occupational Diseases Review Authority.
Dr Tanusha Singh
Singh is the head of immunology and microbiology at NIOH and the OHORT Chair. With over 20 years experience in occupational health, she is the recipient of a number of research grants, and holds a joint appointment with the Department of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at Wits University.
She is revered for pioneering the Bioaerosol Monitoring Unit - the only one of its kind in SA – and the Aspire laboratory, a novel initiative and the only one globally. In addition to this, Singh also spearheaded the development of the Airborne Mycobacteria Tuberculosis Research Laboratory for airborne TB detection in workplaces. She sits on several committees including the International Labour Organisation and the WHO.
Dr Odette Volmink
A medical doctor and occupational medicine specialist, Volmink is also one of the lead Covid-19 trainers. She has worked in the public hospital setting, both in urban and rural areas in South Africa before heading to the UK, where she was first introduced to the field of occupational medicine.
Since returning to the country, Volmink joined the NIOH and has both a clinical and teaching role in occupational medicine. This includes work with different universities as well as delivering training in the registrar programme in occupational health and public health medicine.
A registered occupational hygienist and head of the NIOH Occupational Hygiene Section, Manganyi has previously worked at a private approved Inspection Authority and was involved in exposure assessments in a wide range of industries, including iron and steel, railway, power utilities, manufacturing and office buildings.
Manganyi is also involved in teaching and training, as well as critical research into respirator fit testing and facial anthropometry for respirator design. Through this, she aims to improve the protection of workers using tight fitting respirators.