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The Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) Faculty of Health Sciences is ecstatic to be part of the GreenFlag Project which has been initiated by the Environmental Health Sciences Programme from the Community Health Studies Department.

Dr Ivan Niranjan, Head of the Department of Environmental Health at DUT and panellist on the panel of experts of the GreenFlag Association, explained that the Durban University of Technology is the first university to have eight Faculty of Health Sciences students trained as Green Flag ambassadors.

Speaking further on the project, Deputy Dean Faculty of Health Sciences, Dr Pavitra Pillay, said: “This project is aligned to our university’s ENVISION2030 strategy and addresses the following aspects. Firstly ‘greening the environment and reducing environmental risk’ through the novel air testing, in confined spaces like taxis and other public spaces. Secondly, the project aligns to making our ‘students being engaged and productive global citizens that establish mutually beneficial partnerships’ through the partnership with the GreenFlag Association, which is an international collaboration that consists of international scientists, academics and business representatives,” she said.

She further relayed that DUT’s Environmental Science students have been trained as GreenFlag inspectors and this empowers them with an additional skill/competence which promotes them being part of ‘solutions for societal impact’.

“We would like to congratulate Dr Niranjan and the team on the launch of this important project and hope that it only grows from strength to strength,” she said.

The launch of the GreenFlag Association, introduction of DUT’s GreenFlag ambassadors which among other things, also provides GreenFlag certification of public spaces. Certification gives peace of mind that a venue has taken all precautions to provide a safe public space to customers and staff – especially when it comes to adequate ventilation and reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

The GreenFlag Association is assisting businesses on the KwaZulu-Natal Coast as they prepare to host holiday makers as safely as possible by providing certification of their existing COVID-19 protocols and importantly, their air quality.

Sean Chester, a qualified Occupational Hygienist, registered with the Southern African Institute for Occupational Hygiene (SAIOH) and founding chairman of the Association, said: “Ventilation with fresh clean replacement air is a crucial element of providing a safe and healthy environment and, like other COVID-19 safety protocols – such as wearing masks and cleansing hands regularly – ensures an extremely important extra level of safety for visitors.”

The GreenFlag Association is a collaboration of Apex Environmental, a leading environmental health and safety firm in South Africa, Supplier Development Initiatives (SDI), a firm that assists in enterprise and supplier development, as well as ADreach, which specialises in marketing and communications.

To acquire GreenFlag Certification, a specially trained inspector assesses the air quality of the venue using a set of scientific criteria. Should the establishment meet the criteria, it will be issued with GreenFlag Certification. The certification will specify the number of people that can safely occupy the space, without compromising the safety of patrons, as well as indicate optimal airflow configurations necessary to prevent an accumulation of airborne viral particles.

The GreenFlag Association was launched at the Umhlanga branch of the Butcher Boys restaurant in KwaZulu-Natal, recently. The Butcher Boys restaurant was one of the first establishments to achieve GreenFlag certification.

Dr Niranjan said that his Faculty’s intention is to get more students trained, so far five students have been trained for this pilot project. “The intention is to get the other 25 students in the class trained and do an assignment, in this way it’s also linked to the subject: Occupational Health and Safety, and to also capacitate them so they can also become future GreenFlag inspectors as such. We will use those students that attended the pilot training and who had become GreenFlag ambassadors, and make them team leaders,” he said.

He further indicated that they are also looking at rolling it out to the other seven universities (CPUT, Cape Peninsula, Nelson Mandela University, MUT, CUT, UJ and TUT), that are basically offering Environmental Health.

“The long term goal is to train 5000 GreenFlag ambassadors countrywide, and to also create employment with that regard.

We are the pilots of this project at DUT and we are hoping that it takes off and that it can become a national training programme. Green Flag also has plans as well to make it international. They are in talks with New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the UK,” he said.

Pictured: GreenFlag Inspectors and fourth year Environmental Health students at the Durban University of Technology, Noredi Muzama and Sithembile Nxumalo tests the CO2 quality on the Umhlanga boardwalk.

Gillian Jones and Waheeda Peters

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