Concern for Safety of Police in SA Inspires PhD Graduate

Dr Gugu Mona has graduated with a PhD degree in Public Health following research she did into Occupational Health and Safety among police officers in Gauteng.

Mona, who aspires to be a social entrepreneur and an academic, was supervised by one of UKZN’s Top 30 researchers, Professor Moses Chimbari.

Passionate about improving safety for members of the South African Police Service (SAPS), her study consisted of structured interviews with 45 police officers randomly selected from 15 police stations in Tshwane. She also interviewed safety representatives using checklists and document reviews from seven selected police stations.

Mona’s research found that police officers are severely affected by occupational hazards, injuries and diseases related to their work. She discovered that the shooting of police officers was the most common occupational hazard (38%) while gunshot wounds (58%) were the most common occupational injuries. Of 45 study respondents, 43 displayed a negative attitude and 27 perceived Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) to be poorly managed in the SAPS.

Further, her study revealed that police officers were concerned about the lack of effective OHS interventions. They reported that there was poor compliance with OHS legislation, given that four police stations did not conduct regular risk assessments and lacked an annual medical surveillance programme. Only three police stations had an OHS training programme for police officers.

From seven study police stations, only two respondents said their stations had police officers who were trained on incident investigation. The general lack of documentation and proof of accreditation of training service providers revealed apparent poor quality in OHS training.

Together with Chimbari, Mona is currently engaging with the SAPS regarding the results of the study and the implications involved.

Said Mona: ‘The main aim is to help provide transparent and credible feedback to the stakeholders who made it possible to conduct the research. We also aim to contribute towards the improvement of health and safety among police officers in South Africa.’

Aside from her academic pursuits; Mona is a passionate author, poet, philosopher and songwriter. She is currently working on a book titled: My Mother’s Classroom, which comprises poetry she has written about lessons from her mother – Ms Lucy Anna Mona – and many powerful women who have inspired her.

She also appreciated the love and guidance given to her by her father, Mr Fred Mona, who taught her poetry when she was a youngster.

Mona plans to pursue a career in academia and is keen on doing a post-doctoral fellowship overseas in order to collaborate with experts globally.

Words: MaryAnn Francis