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A Day in the Life: Environmental Health Officer

Environmental health relates to how the environment impacts on human (and sometimes animal) health. Our job is to ensure that the food we eat, the homes we live in, the places we work, the air we breathe and the actions of those around us, do not have an adverse impact on the health and safety of others.

What do you like about your role?

My job involves enforcing food safety, workplace health and safety and private sector housing law. Whilst enforcement is part of the job, we spend a lot of time advising and educating people on legal requirements to try and ensure they do not break the law. The role is like a cross between a police officer and a teacher, and given the variety of work areas I cover, I am often doing something new. This variety is challenging and enjoyable.

What skills do you need to be an Environmental Health Officer?

Some areas of the job are quite technical, so a certain ability to understand scientific concepts is important. However, it is more important to be able to convey this knowledge in a way in which people with a less technical background can understand. I need to be able to identify risk, but also be able to quantify it and prioritise actions to rectify what was wrong.

Can you outline a typical day?

Not really! Some days are spent entirely 'field based,' out of the office carrying out inspections, taking samples or investigating complaints and accidents. Other days are spent in the office or at home, compiling reports, notices and prosecution files. Occasionally a major incident will occur such as a food poisoning outbreak or a serious injury or fatality at work and officers have to put aside their day-to-day work to help out.

What is the most satisfying aspect of your role?

Providing advice and support to small business owners and landlords to help them successfully carry out their enterprises in a responsible way. Also identifying and improving conditions for people who are forced to live or work in an unhealthy environment.

What are the frustrations?

People who are given time and resource but who fail to improve and are having a detrimental effect on those that their businesses rely on.