Environmental Health Officer

Protecting your community in local government environmental health
Environmental health in local government is all about improving people's quality of life and making sure they are able to live, work and play in safe, healthy environments. Local government environmental health officers and practitioners are involved in a wide range of activities covering food safety, public health, occupational health, housing and environmental protection.

Work Environment
Some the work is office-based, but much of the work involves visiting shops, restaurants, kitchens, factories and offices. Some of the visits may be to dirty and sometimes potentially dangerous, or unpleasant places and it might sometimes be necessary to wear protective clothing hats, masks and overalls.

Daily Activities
Local government environmental health officers may be involved in all aspects of environmental health work, as generalists, or they might specialise in one of the five main areas of work:

  • Food safety - this work involves inspecting premises where food is prepared and sold such as restaurants, shops, pubs, factories and take-aways, to ensure that health and safety standards are being met and to advise on food regulations.  Some of the visits are routine, but others are unplanned and usually in response to complaints from the public.
  • Public health - environmental health officers work in partnership with medical professionals to protect and promote public health.  They get involved in health awareness campaigns such as the dangers of smoking and obesity.  They are also involved in educating the public about infectious diseases.
  • Housing - this work involves monitoring housing standards to ensure that housing is safe and fit to live in.  The work might include checking to see if there are legal fire escapes and smoke alarms, monitoring sanitation arrangements and ensuring repairs are carried out by landlords.
  • Health and safety in the workplace - environmental health officers visit a range of businesses and offices to monitor health and safety standards.  They assess the risks and ensure that employees are safe.  Sometimes they might have to investigate accidents in the workplace.
  • Environmental protection - this work involves monitoring dangerous levels of air, water, land and noise pollution, identifying problems and taking action to rectify them.  Officers need to use specialist equipment to take samples of water and soil, to monitor pollution levels in the air, or measure noise levels.  They then provide recommendations on how to resolve the problem and in some cases they take enforcement action to deal with the issue.

Local government environmental health officers might also expect to spend some of their time visiting schools and community groups to talk about relevant issues, such as fire or food safety.

They might also expect to spend some time collating and preparing data for court cases and giving evidence.

Skills & Interests
Local government environmental health officers need to:

  • have good investigative and decision-making abilities;
  • have a methodical, careful approach to gathering facts and assessing evidence;
  • be excellent commnicators - both verbally and in writing;
  • be firm, but fair;
  • be able to deal with unpleasant conditions from time to time;
  • have good scientific and technical understanding.

Entry Requirements
Environmental health is a graduate profession, therefore to become fully qualified you must gain a degree accredited by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health.  Entry requirements for most degree courses are minimum five GSCEgrades (A-C or above) and at least 2 A-levels.  (You don't necessarily need science-based A-levels, but at least one would be preferable.)  Science graduates can enter via an accredited postgraduate course and there are foundation courses available for non-science graduates or career changers.  Some local councils may offer sponsorship opportunities for students.

You can study for a CIEH accredited degree at any of the following universities:    
• University of Derby
• Nottingham Trent University
• University of Manchester
• University of Birmingham
• Leeds Metropolitan University
• Middlesex University
• King's College, London
• University of Salford
• University of Northumbria
• University of Ulster 

A full driving licence is usually required.

Future Prospects & Opportunities
A well and clearly defined promotion structure within a local council leads to senior, principal and chief officer posts in environmental health. It may be necessary to move to other councils to gain more experience, breadth of work and promotion.

Further Information & Services
Chartered Institute of Environmental Health www.ehcareers.org
Institute of Occupational Safety & Health www.iosh.co.uk
Royal Society for the Promotion of Health www.rsph.org

Careers Wales have produced a Spotlight article on careers in food and farming: www.careerswales.com/en/spotlight-on-food-and-farming/  

You may find further information about this area of work through Careers Wales (www.careerswales.com/) or in your local library, careers office or school careers library.


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