Tuesday, 6 February 2018:  South Africa seems to be following the trend in the United DRmalcom-03States to legalise cannabis. Last year, Judge Dennis Davis ruled in a full bench decision of the Western Cape High Court, that the use and cultivation of cannabis by an adult in a private home is constitutionally legal. While this decision needs to be confirmed by the Constitutional Court before taking effect, it does cast a spotlight on the adequacy of company policies regarding the use of legal and illegal substances including dagga in the workplace.


MD of Workforce Healthcare, Dr Richard Malkin has taken a particular interest in drug testing of employees in the workplace and says that workplace policies need to be very robust, given that both employers and employees are tasked with creating a safe workplace.


“An employer is held personally responsible if the workplace is not safe and employees can be prosecuted if they don’t comply. In fact, every employer has a duty to stop employees from entering or remaining at work if they appear to be under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs. Depending on a company’s policy, an employee who arrives at work stoned or impaired, and who poses a safety risk, could be fired or arrested. The problem is that dagga for instance can show up in the bloodstream up to a week later – it could become legal at home and not in the workplace and then what does a company do?” queries Malkin.


He clarifies that the term safety is used broadly and may involve physical safety or even reputational safety. “A stoned employee in the call centre, an equities trader or a crane operator may all pose safety risks for different reasons,” he explains.


Workforce Healthcare offers integrated employee wellness and assistance programmes as well as occupational and primary healthcare services to a large client base of public and private companies across South Africa covering more than 34 000 employees. Malkin has observed that certain industries tend to turn a blind eye to substance use when it is perceived to make employees more productive.


Furthermore pro-dagga groups advocate that employees should not consent to drug testing unless their employment contract specifically covers drug testing or the company has a comprehensive occupational health policy in place. So a policy is critical. Before you perform drug and alcohol tests, you need to gain written consent from your employees. We need to have a source for reference. To do this, you need an occupational health and safety policy in place, which is set out in the employment contract. The employee’s signature on his employment contract should include consent for drug testing.


Testing for dagga use is particularly difficult. First the employee is asked whether he is taking any substances. Then a screening test is done using saliva or urine. If the test indicates dagga use, it needs to be sent to a lab for confirmation. The testing is further complicated as the test seeks the break down product of cannabis and not the presence of the substance itself.


Given that South Africa is one of the world’s largest producers of dagga and SA has some of the most lax dagga laws in the world according to Wikipedia, Malkin’s recommendation is to get clear about your policy on dagga.


“In the workplace, it all boils down to your substance abuse policy,” he explains. “An employee could for instance take a Valium or cough mixture, both legal substances, and be at the office in no condition to work or to operate machinery.  I advise companies to use experts to help formulate their company policy and avoid the minefield of complications around substance abuse in the workplace. Workforce Healthcare has helped several organisations prepare policies and we are able to do the necessary random periodic testing countrywide,” he says.


Dr Malkin alerts South Africans to another issue which has an unintended consequence. If a person consumes cannabis at home and the person drives a vehicle whilst stoned, the person cannot be successfully prosecuted as there is no current legislation that defines an acceptable level of cannabis in the body whilst driving.


Legislation needs to be amended that defines an acceptable level of cannabis in the body to drive just like alcohol which is clearly defined. Malkin is of the opinion that until legislation is amended, there is a risk that South Africans are exposed on the roads with seemingly no consequence to the perpetrator.


– ENDS –


Workforce Healthcare is the healthcare division of AltX listed Workforce Holdings. It is a specialist health and wellness provider that aims to positively influence employee health and wellness through disease prevention, early detection and diagnosis, and interventions that restore and optimise health and wellness. Workforce Healthcare is a doctor-driven organisation and have been actively involved in helping employers formulate cost-effective workplace wellness solutions since 1986, specifically in the industrial sector.


Workforce Holdings and its group of companies is a leading, trusted provider of employment, training, healthcare, wellness and financial and lifestyle services and benefits to individuals and their employers. Human capital solutions include: temporary employment services, permanent placement recruitment, training and skills development, healthcare and wellness, disability solutions, financial and lifestyle services and business process outsourcing. Workforce Holdings Limited is listed on the AltX board of the JSE, employing over 1 200 permanent staff and paying approximately 32 000 temporary contractors weekly.

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The top 5 health concerns for women

In honour of International Women’s Day Workforce Healthcare highlight’s the top 5 health concerns for women.

  1. Heart Disease

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of mortality for both men and women. But more concerning than death is premature death. Heart disease is one of the leading causes of women ‘dying young’, chiefly due to the fact that it’s under-diagnosed. Chest pain is considered the main symptom of heart diseases but especially in women, heart disease can manifest in other ways like jaw pain, shoulder ache, nausea, vomiting or shortness of breath. Moderate exercise and a balanced diet will help to prevent heart disease and regular health checks are essential for early detection.

2. Breast Cancer

Some of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer include: change in size and shape of your breasts, a lump on your breasts, a change in skin texture like mottling or a rash, inverted nipple and persistent pain in your chest or armpit. You know your body best so don’t ignore the signs, it’s important that you let your doctor know as soon as you detect a change in your body to ensure early diagnosis.

3. Osteoporosis

According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, because bone loss is gradual and painless, there are usually no symptoms to indicate a person is developing osteoporosis. This is why osteoporosis is often referred to as the silent disease. Often the first symptom of osteoporosis is a fracture. Most commonly, osteoporotic fractures occur at the spine, the wrist or the hip, although osteoporotic fractures can occur in other bones as well.

Take the IOF 1-minute online osteoporosis risk test

4. Depression

Depression is thought to affect more women than men. According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag), common symptoms of depression include: persistent anxiety, feelings of hopelessness and negativity, insomnia, early morning waking or oversleeping, appetite loss or emotional eating, decreased energy/fatigue, persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment like headache, stomach and joint pain.

5. Autoimmune disorders

Autoimmune diseases are a group of disorders in which the immune system attacks the body and destroys or alters tissues. There are more than 80 serious chronic illnesses in this category, including lupus, multiple sclerosis and Type 1 diabetes.

It is not known what causes the body to turn on itself, but genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors are suspects. Symptoms are often hard to pinpoint but if you believe something may be amiss with your body, make multiple visits to the doctor or get second and third opinions if you have to.

Sources: WebMD; Breast Cancer; Sadag


World AIDS Day – 5 Facts about HIV

World AIDS Day is held on 1 December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died from AIDs.

To honour the day here are 5 facts about HIV:

  • HIV can be transmitted in a number of ways like unprotected sexual intercourse, transfusions of contaminated blood, sharing of contaminated injecting equipment and transmission between mother and baby during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.


  • There are several ways to prevent HIV like: practicing safe sex by using a condom and getting tested and treated for STDs like HIV. If you have HIV, start antiretroviral therapy as soon as possible for your own health and the health of your sexual partner or infant.


  • 36.7 million people are living with HIV worldwide. 1.8 million of these are children.


  • HIV testing can help to ensure that people living with HIV get access to antiretroviral treatment. An estimated 40% of people with HIV remain undiagnosed and don’t know their infection status.


  • HIV is the greatest risk factor for developing TB. In 2015, an estimated 1.2 million of the 10.4 million people who developed TB worldwide were HIV positive. In the same year approximately 390 000 deaths from tuberculosis occurred among people living with HIV.


Dr Richard Malkin, MD of Workforce Healthcare says that he cannot emphasise enough how serious HIV is in South Africa. “500 000 people die every year from AIDs and most of these people don’t know their status.”

This large amount of deaths can be avoided by accessing free treatment at state clinics. Once on treatment people can lead normal healthy lives.

“As a medical practitioner, looking after thousands of people in the workplaces around South Africa, where we’ve been dealing with HIV for over three decades, my conscience does not allow me to accept that over 500 000 people are dying,” Malkin says. “We need to re-look at how HIV is being dealt with in our country as I believe that this is not acceptable.”


Source: World Health Organisation






16 Days of Activism for No Violence

16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children is a global campaign to raise awareness, which runs  from 25 November to 10 December. This period includes Universal Children’s Day and World Aids Day.

South Africa’s theme this year is: “Count me in: together moving a non-violent South Africa forward”.

In the spirit of standing together towards a non-violent South Africa, here are some places of safety where you can seek help if you are in an abusive situation.

People Opposed to Woman Abuse, or Powa

Powa provides counselling, both telephonically and in person, temporary shelter for and legal help to women who have experienced violence.

Stop Gender Abuse

Run by LifeLine Southern Africa, Stop Gender Abuse offers crisis counselling for women who have been raped or abused. It also gives advice and support to people who wish to help women who are in need of help, and gives legal and other options available.

Childline South Africa

This non-profit organisation helps abused children and their families. It deals with issues such as physical and sexual abuse, substance abuse, behavioural problems and trafficking, and gives legal advice.

Child Welfare South Africa

Child Welfare South Africa focuses on child protection, child care and family development. Neglect and child abuse can also be reported.

In addition to these places of safety, Workforce Healthcare’s EAP call-centre is manned by qualified counselors who will find victims of abuse the help they need. Workforce Healthcare also runs onsite workshops to address the effects of abuse, bullying and violence.




Five tips to help you stress less

1. Progressive muscle relaxation
The problem with stress is that it can cause you to tense certain muscles in your body without even realising it. Over time you become used to the tension and stop noticing that your muscles are tight. Sore muscles, especially in the neck and shoulders can stem from chronic tension. Try progressive muscle relaxation by focusing on slowly tensing and then relaxing your muscles, one group at a time. Start with your toes and work your way up to your neck. Doing progressive muscle relaxation regularly will increase your awareness of when you’re tensing your muscles and you will learn to let go of tension.

2. Visualisation
Sometimes it can all become too much and while you can’t physically go to your happy place, a quick mental holiday will do just fine. Think of a few scenes that represent total relaxation for you – the mountain cabin you once stayed in, the local park on a Saturday afternoon, the beach paradise you’d love to visit one day or even the comfortable sofa you like to sit on while you read. Close your eyes and spend a few minutes imagining you are there. Engage as many senses as you can by thinking about what you’d see, hear, smell, touch or taste if you were really there.

3. Deep Breathing
Breathing is an involuntary action, so we don’t pay much attention to how we breathe. However, becoming more aware of how you breathe by doing a few deep breathing exercises can produce a natural relaxation response. Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and helps promote a state of calmness. Breathing techniques also assist you in focusing on your body, which can, in turn, quiet your mind.

4. Engage your senses
Engaging your senses can help you to refocus your attention and help you let go of worry. The key is to find out which sense is most helpful for you to engage with. Some people find that listening to music calms their minds, others find that looking at family photos can help to relieve their stress. Experiment with different activities that engage your senses to find out which senses work for you. It could be rubbing scented hand lotion on your hands, giving yourself a quick neck rub, eating something tasty or squeezing a stress ball.

5. Laugh!
Have you heard the saying – ‘laughter is the best medicine?’ Well, it’s actually true! Laughing stimulates circulation and soothes tension which relieves some of the physical symptoms of stress. Laughter also increases endorphins released by the brain and produces a relaxed feeling. So, to beat the stress read funny stories or look at funny memes on your phone, talk to a co-worker who you know has a good sense of humour or think about a hilarious anecdote. A willingness to laugh at yourself can also serve as a good reminder not to take life so seriously, which can do wonders for your stress level.

‘Love your beans’ in 2016

South Africa celebrates National Nutrition Week from 9 to 15 October and this year’s theme is ‘Love your beans’, highlighting the importance of pulses like lentils, beans, soya and peas in our diets.

Lynn Moeng-Mahlangu, Cluster Manager of Health Promotion, Nutrition and Oral Health at the National Department of Health says, “There’s a good reason to put dry beans, peas, lentils and soya into the spotlight. Unfortunately, they are largely overlooked as they are often seen as a ‘poor man’s food’ and they can take a long time to cook. We should be eating them, along with a variety of foods, at least four times a week; and yet, many of us hardly include them in our diets.”

Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA) president, Maryke Gallagher says, “We are delighted that this year’s theme highlights these affordable, versatile and tasty foods that make such a vital contribution to our health when they are a regular part of the family’s healthy eating regime.”

The top nutritional benefits of eating dry beans, peas, lentils and soya are that:

  • They are low in fat but high in fibre and have a low glycaemic index
  • They are naturally cholesterol-free
  • They are naturally gluten-free
  • They are a good source of plant protein, providing twice as much protein as wheat
  • They are good sources of vitamins such as folate and minerals such as potassium and calcium

Here are a few recipes for introducing more pulses into your diet:

Sweet potato and lentil curry

Bean soup

Samp and beans with soya mince


Source: National Nutrition Week




5 reasons to smile everyday

Today is #WorldSmileDay.
We celebrate this day on the first Friday of October to commemorate artist, Harvey Ball creating the iconic smiley face symbol in 1963. However the purpose of this day is also to show the importance of smiling and how important it is to give back in order to put a smile on someone’s face.
Flashing a smile is an outward exhibition of a positive attitude but did you know there can be health benefits to smiling?

Here are five reasons to smile everyday:

1. Smiling can improve your mood.
Emotions may originate in the brain but your facial muscles have the ability to either reinforce or transform those feelings. Studies show that by enhancing positive emotions or suppressing negative ones with facial expressions, a person’s mood begins to align more strongly with the emotion their face is communicating.

2. Smiling can help to reduce stress.
A 2012 study, studied 170 participants who were told to hold chopsticks in their mouths in three formations, making them smile to various degrees without realising it, after performing a stressful task. The experiment revealed that subjects who smiled the widest with the chopsticks experienced a substantial reduction in heart rate and fast stress recovery compared to those whose expressions remained neutral.

3. Smiling makes you more approachable.

A 2004 study found that smiles shared by employees in the service industry influenced their impressions on customers in a positive way. Smiling employees came across as more likable and friendly and customers left feeling more satisfied with the experience. An added display of an authentic smile also helped workers to appear to be more competent.

4. Smiles are contagious…in a good way.
We all possess something called mirror neurons, cells in the pre-motor cortex and inferior parietal cortex that are activated when we perform a given action as well as when we witness someone else performing it. When it comes to smiling, mirror neurons respond to the acts of seeing and doing.

5. Smiles may strengthen the body on a cellular level.
Just as smiling helps the body to get rid of stress, smiling can release tension on a cellular level as well. Cells can apparently distinguish between safety and danger, find and repair problems and create an overall sense of balance within the body. A person’s thoughts have a direct effect on cell function. When we smile, we reduce the rigidness of our cells and this physical relaxation can help combat the risk of stress-induced cell mutations that can lead to the development or persistence of cancers.

Source: The Huffington Post