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New Solut. 2017 Aug;27(2):176-188. doi: 10.1177/1048291117710782. Epub 2017 May 17.

Nudging for Prevention in Occupational Health and Safety in South Africa Using Fiscal Policies.

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1 National Institute of Occupational Health, Johannesburg, South Africa.
2 University of the Witwatersrand School of Public Health, Johannesburg, South Africa.


Currently, in some countries occupational health and safety policy and practice have a bias toward secondary prevention and workers' compensation rather than primary prevention. Particularly, in emerging economies, research has not adequately contributed to effective interventions and improvements in workers' health. This article, using South Africa as a case study, describes a methodology for identifying candidate fiscal policy interventions and describes the policy interventions selected for occupational health and safety. It is argued that fiscal policies are well placed to deal with complex intersectoral health problems and to focus efforts on primary prevention. A major challenge is the lack of empirical evidence to support the effectiveness of fiscal policies in improving workers' health. A second challenge is the underprioritization of occupational health and safety partly due to the relatively small burden of disease attributed to occupational exposures. Both challenges can and should be overcome by (i) conducting policy-relevant research to fill the empirical gaps and (ii) reconceptualizing, both for policy and research purposes, the role of work as a determinant of population health. Fiscal policies to prevent exposure to hazards at work have face validity and are thus appealing, not as a replacement for other efforts to improve health, but as part of a comprehensive effort toward prevention.


South Africa; developing country; fiscal policy; health policy; occupational health; prevention

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