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Here's why SA needs more occupational hygienists

Image: 123RF/Juan Jose Napuri Guevara.

They are trained to recognise health hazards and how to evaluate the extent of these hazards. They identify the risks involved and implement procedures for controlling them.

These procedures assist management in coping with any risks to their workforce and prepare them for potential liabilities that might arise.

The typical duties of occupational hygienists are to carry out surveys on working conditions in the workplace, assess risks (such as chemical exposure, noise levels, poor lighting, ventilation etc, to document details of risk factors accurately, to give consideration to and recommend appropriate control methods, as well as to communicate effectively with the workforce and liaise with outside companies which specialise in health and safety services.

They work closely with the workforce, providing them with clear and accurate information regarding risk or health hazards. In order to do their work effectively, occupational hygienists need to stay well-informed on scientific and legal developments in the industrial manufacturing industry.

Once they have gained the relevant experience, they may decide to become self-employed and work on a contractual or part-time basis.

Personal requirements

  • Able to communicate effectively
  • Responsible and ethical
  • Excellent people-skills
  • High degree of attention to detail
  • Technical skills
  • Flair for and interest in research
  • Able to work with many different kinds of people
  • Safety and health conscious

Watch the video to learn more:

How to enter

Schooling & school subjects compulsory subjects: Mathematics

Recommended subjects: Physical Sciences, Life Sciences

National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree or diploma course. Each institution has its own entry requirements.

What to study

Examples of places to study: Degree: Wits, UKZN, NWU.

Diploma: TUT


  • Large industrial manufacturers
  • Government departments
  • Health and safety organisations
  • All industries or companies that employ a large workforce
  • Self-employment, with appropriate experience

Getting started

  • Do research on different types of manufacturing industries and what their working conditions should be
  • Speak to occupational hygienists about this career and ask to observe them at work

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