Occupational health | Safety | Environment

Occupational health

The aim of the occupational health services at UCT is to promote the health and productivity of workers as prescribed by the Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) Act 85 of 1993.

Occupational health specialists (doctors and nurses) are trained to identify, diagnose, treat and refer staff who have occupationally acquired diseases and injuries as a result of being injured or being exposed to hazardous substances at work.

These specialists develop medical surveillance programmes to monitor and evaluate identified hazardous environments to ensure that exposure limits are well controlled. 

Medical surveillance

Medical surveillance describes a planned programme or periodic checks that may include clinical examinations, biological monitoring or medical tests of employees by an occupational health nurse practitioner or, in prescribed cases, by an occupational medicine practitioner.

At UCT, the most common medical examinations include but are not limited to:

  • Pre-employment medicals: baseline medicals, periodic medicals and exit medicals
  • Hazardous biological agents (HBA) medicals: for animal workers, Tuberculosis/HepatitisB research, wastewater research and more
  • Hazardous chemical substances (HCS) medicals: for Faculty of Engineering & the Built Environment (EBE), Faculty of Health Sciences and other
  • Fitness to work: working at height, inherent requirement or capability
  • Physical hazards: radiation, cold lab, noise
  • Vocational driver medicals: student and staff transport services bus drivers
  • Ergonomic risk medicals

Occupational Risk Exposure Profiles (OREP)

The occupational risk exposure profile (OREP) is the formal documentation of the results of a risk assessment, during which job-specific risk information is gathered.

The OREP is completed by the line manager or supervisor and sent to the occupational health unit with a job description. The occupational health specialists determines if that category of worker needs to be included in the medical surveillance programme and the type of medical assessment required.

OREP training and support are available for line managers and supervisors via the OHSE division, see OHSE training & support for booking details.

Ergonomic assessments

Ergonomics is the study of work and people's physical capabilities. This means matching jobs to people and designing items in their work environment in a way that they can handle them comfortably and safely. It is about optimising processes to achieve optimum efficiency and safety in the workplace. The OHS Act's Ergonomics Regulations require that all newly employed workers be informed about ergonomics and be assessed via an ergonomic risk assessment to identify ergonomic risk exposures.

Ergonomic assessments are available for UCT staff via the OHSE division, see OHSE training & support for booking details.


UCT is committed to the safety of all its occupants, including customers, contractors, media representatives and the general public when visiting our various campuses. Therefore, it is imperative that the university's occupational health, safety and environment standards complement the international benchmark status of UCT in ensuring that all statutory governance and best practice implementation of these standards is flawless.


Environment refers to everything around us, including land, air, water and other living things.

    Work environment

    The OHSE Act has several environmental regulations for workplaces, addressing issues such as housekeeping, windows, lighting, ventilation, noise protection, fire precautions and means of egress (evacuation routes, fire escapes, emergency escape doors), and fire-fighting equipment.

    OHS Act Environmental Regulations for Workplaces

    • Reg 2: Thermal requirements
    • Reg 3: Lighting
    • Reg 4: Windows
    • Reg 5: Ventilation
    • Reg 6: Housekeeping
    • Reg 7: Noise and hearing conservation

    Hazardous substances

    Every university laboratory and department working with hazardous materials and chemicals should hold Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). An MSDS is a document prepared by the manufacturer that contains information on the potential hazards and how to work safely with the product. MSDSs must be readily available (even during power failures) in case of an emergency, such as one requiring first aid or fire-fighting services.

    UCT is responsible for limiting the amount of hazardous chemical substances or biological agents which may contaminate the working environment. At UCT, there are systems in place for the responsible disposal of hazardous waste, such as:

    • Biohazardous waste, including sharps
    • Chemical waste, including toxic solvents and paint
    • E-waste, including computers, cellphones, printer cartridges
    • Universal waste, including fluorescent light bulbs, batteries

    Natural environment

    We need to protect the environment and promote sustainability because the natural environment is our life support system - it is vital for our safety, health and well-being.

    Sustainability refers to people living in a way that there is enough for everyone and future generations to have a reasonable quality of life. This means, for example, that we need to:

    • Care for natural ecosystems and biodiversity
    • Use water, electricity and other resources wisely
    • Buy locally-produced food
    • Use reusable shopping bags
    • Don’t buy water in disposable plastic bottles
    • Print on both sides of the paper (2-sided printing)
    • Be mindful of how you dispose of waste