The current cholera outbreak that is first traced back to Gauteng and that has now also spread to the Free State, is raising widespread concerns about workplace health and safety. (SA)UEO consulted with occupational health and safety expert Henk Horn from Global Safety Consultants to determine how employers can best respond to this issue, and safeguard their workplaces against this highly infectious disease, which can quickly become fatal.

Understanding cholera

Cholera is an acute diarrheal infection caused by the bacterium vibrio cholerae. It is primarily transmitted through the ingestion of contaminated water or food that quickly leads to severe dehydration and kidney failure, which can of course be fatal. Even though cholera is more commonly associated with developing countries and areas with inadequate sanitation systems, workplace environments can be especially susceptible to outbreaks if proper precautions are not taken.

Five steps to prevent workplace cholera 

  1. Water and sanitation facilities: Employers must ensure the provision of clean and safe drinking water in the workplace. Regular testing of water sources for bacterial contamination should be conducted, and if any issues are identified, immediate remedial measures must be implemented. Proper sanitation facilities, including well-maintained toilets and handwashing stations with soap and clean water, should be readily available for all employees.


  1. Hygiene promotion: Raising awareness about good hygiene practices is essential in preventing cholera transmission. Employers should conduct regular educational programmes or training sessions to promote proper hand hygiene, safe food handling, and general sanitation practises among employees. Clear signage reminding employees to wash their hands thoroughly and follow hygienic practices can also be displayed throughout the workplace.


  1. Waste management: Effective waste management is critical in preventing the contamination of water sources. Adequate disposal methods for both solid and liquid waste should be implemented to minimise the risk of cholera transmission. Regular cleaning and disinfection of work areas and proper waste segregation practises should be encouraged.


  1. Employee health monitoring: Employers should establish mechanisms to monitor employee health, including early detection and reporting of any suspected cholera cases. Encouraging employees to seek medical attention promptly when experiencing symptoms such as diarrhoea, vomiting, or dehydration is vital.


  1. Emergency preparedness: Developing an emergency response plan specific to cholera outbreaks is crucial. This plan should include clear procedures for isolating suspected cases, notifying relevant health authorities, providing necessary medical support, and implementing preventive measures. Regular drills and simulations can help evaluate the effectiveness of the plan and ensure that employees are familiar with the necessary protocols.


Prioritising workplace health and safety extends beyond addressing visible hazards and injuries. Preventing the spread of infectious diseases like cholera requires a comprehensive approach that includes maintaining clean water sources, promoting good hygiene practices, and implementing proper waste management. By taking proactive measures to prevent workplace cholera, employers can protect the health and well-being of their employees, promote a positive work environment, and contribute to overall productivity and success.

Get help with a cholera emergency response plan

The services of Global Safety Consultants are now available to all business members of (SA)UEO at a preferred rate. For assistance with auditing your workplace or an emergency response plan, simply get in touch with your organiser.