In 1966 the Industrial Nurses of the then Southern Transvaal met as a group on the 20th of April to hold their first ‘meeting’. This was arranged by Mary E Ahlers who worked for the United Tobacco Company Ltd. The first Industrial Nurses discussion group which the members named ‘Occupational Health Nurses Discussion Group (Southern Transvaal)’ was held on the 11th of April 1970. The founders of the group were M.E. Ahlers, D. Cas, C.A. Robertson, M. Dixon, A.M. Coetzee, M.G. Meeker, E. Smith, A. Shacklock and D. Blacklaws.
In 1976 members became involved in accommodating nursing students in basic nursing courses and post basic occupational health speciality courses for clinical experience in their clinics. 1976 also saw the term “Industrial Nurses” changed to “Occupational Health Nurses” to be in line with international standards. It was at this time that members raised concerns about their need for indemnity cover, and the time when Occupational Health Nursing education and Audiometry training was recognised.
On the 2nd of June 1976, 22 nurses enrolled for the first Certificate in Occupational Health Nursing course run by Professor Ian Webster at the National Centre for Occupational Health. The first Occupational Health Nursing Certificate course through a university was arranged in 1977 by the University of Port Elizabeth. In 1990, as a result of discussions with the Rector, H. Snyman and J. Serfontein, courses were commenced at the Port Elizabeth Technikon. In 1979 S. Coetzee initiated a course using the boardroom of the South African Nursing Association for lectures in Pretoria.
The South African Society of Occupational Health Nurses (SASOHN) was then formed on the 30th of April 1980. The society was formed due to E. Snyman and S. Coetzee, who recognized the need to promote occupational health nursing in South Africa. S. Coetzee was elected the first President on this day. In 1983 all discussion groups then changes their names to Professional Societies of SASOHN. On the 7th of March 2001 SASOHN was awarded custodianship of the Audiometry database by the department of Labour. On the 9th of July 1981 the society’s first AGM was held in Pretoria and on the 7th of October of 1981 SANC recognized the additional qualification in OHN.
The SASOHN National Office was launched in 2003 and operated two hours a day and has grown to a half day position due to the volume of work. SASOHN continues to grow and currently has a membership of approximately 1200 throughout South Africa with a few international members. Each region holds monthly meetings and annual workshops to convey relevant occupational health information to its members. As SASOHN is a non profit organisation, funds are generated back to the members in the form of bursaries and sponsorship to events. As an OHNP there are exciting prospects for our growing profession. There are constant changes and we need to grow to meet the challenges of our industries and the world. By standing together to improve the quality of Occupational Health Nursing we can make a huge impact as did the ‘Industrial’ Nurses before us..