A Career That's Worth an Inspection; People Who Work in Environmental Health Ensure That All of Us Live a Healthier, Safer and Quieter Life. Yet These Are Largely Hidden Roles, writesNiki Chesworth

Article excerpt

Byline: Niki Chesworth

NEXT time you pop into a takeaway, it is your local authority's environmental health department you have to thank for ensuring that the premises are clean. If you hear rustling sounds in the attic, then you may ring them to sort out your rodent problem. And they are likely to be the first port of call if you are being kept awake night after night by blaring music from next door or are concerned about the "beds in sheds" accommodation in the garden next door.

Environmental health has a wide remit, and it is about to get even wider as local authorities will take over responsibility for public health services in April of next year. This is when environmental health departments will play a crucial role in preventative public health with the aim of reducing inequalities, increasing life expectancy and reducing the burden on the NHS.

Environmental health also plays a part in helping businesses to reduce their carbon footprint with the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) last week launching a new qualification -- a Level 3 Award in environmental management -- to help staff take an active role in this.

However, while environmental health touches so many aspects of our lives, those working in this sector tend to have a low profile.

So last week the CIEH decided to throw some light on the work of its members by encouraging them to tweet about their working lives to mark World Environmental Health Day.

Their work is varied and covers everything from health and safety legislation to the safety of those living in mobile homes as well as preventing E.coli and other infections from animal contact at visitor attractions such as farms. The CIEH is also working on a Takeaways Toolkit, promoting effective ways for local authorities to tackle the rising obesity epidemic and will shortly issue guidance on safe tattooing and skin piercing.

"Environmental health has now gone beyond its traditional boundaries of housing, environmental protection and health and safety," says Tony Lewis, head of education at the CIEH.

"It now covers wider issues of occupational health, wellbeing and broader public health-related issues and goes way beyond tick box regulation."

ALWAYS A NEED While budget cuts across local authorities mean that recruitment is largely frozen for all public sector jobs, environmental health is a role that is often still in demand. Scour the job adverts from local authorities and, along with a steady demand for learning assistants in schools and for social workers, environmental health is a job that crops up time and time again. However, as with other local authority roles, environmental health officers may not always be working directly for their borough.

THE QUALIFICATIONS In order to call yourself an environmental health practitioner (EHP) or environmental health officer (EHO), you must have qualified from a CIEH-accredited course in environmen-tal health and hold the Environmental Health Registration Board Certificate of Registration in environmental health (or equivalent). Holding a higher certificate in Food Premises Inspection, holding a degree in environmental health on its own or working as a technical officer, for example, does not allow you to work as an EHP.

THE ROLES Not all environmental health professionals work for local authorities. Companies also employ health and safety officers to undertake food and health and safety audits and keep them up to date with changes in legislation.

Not all jobs are permanent either.

Local authorities often want environment health officers to work on shortterm contracts. Pay in London is around [pounds sterling]20 to [pounds sterling]24 per hour for HMO inspections or residential complaints, although shifts may be at night or weekends.

Other authorities may pay per inspection, for example [pounds sterling]40.

TRAINING "We have 500 to 600 students who join graduate programmes each year," says Lewis. …


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