Environmental health officers (EHOs) help protect members of the public from disease and other dangers to health. They advise and educate organisations on how to meet regulations and make sure that they are enforced.
They deal with safety of food and water, housing, air and noise pollution, epidemic control, pest control and waste disposal.
You could be:
- inspecting shops, restaurants, abattoirs (slaughterhouses) or refuse disposal sites to check that they meet with official hygiene standards
- advising businesses on how to meet official health and safety standards
- checking levels of air, noise, water and land pollution using scientific equipment
- taking photos and making drawings
- visiting residences in response to complaints from the neighbours and proposing changes
- tracing sources of food-poisoning and collecting samples for analysis
- monitoring the water in public swimming pools
- writing detailed reports of visits and recommendations
- collecting information and appearing in court to give evidence in court cases.
Pay rates vary, depending on:
- where you work
- the size of company or organisation you work for
- the demand for the job.
Salaries for qualified environmental health officers in the UK tend to be in the range of £26,500 to £35,000 a year. Senior EHOs can earn up to around £50,000 a year.
- You would work in an office, but spend a lot of time visiting premises – some of which may be dirty, unpleasant or dangerous.
- The people running the premises you visit might be angry or aggressive.
- You may have to work at heights or in confined spaces.
- You would sometimes have to wear protective clothing.
- You might have to attend law courts to give evidence.
- Working hours are usually regular but you might have to work some evenings and weekends.
- Entry is competitive.
- You would need to study for an MSc or BSc Hons in Environmental Health accredited by the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland (REHIS).
- In Scotland, the only university to offer the REHIS accredited degree course in Environmental Health is the University of the West of Scotland. For entry you will require 4 Highers at BBBB or ABBC including 2 science subjects plus English and Maths at Standard grade level 3, Intermediate 2 or National 5 at C. Higher Biology and Chemistry are preferred.
- Strathclyde University offers the MSc Environmental Health on a full time and part time basis. You would require a first or second class Honours degree in a relevant life science or engineering discipline.
- After you have your BSc or MSc, you would complete a 1-year training programme with a local authority. This can be completed with an employer during university holidays over 4 years. You would then be eligible to register with REHIS and receive a copy of the Practical Training Manual.
- You will be required to keep a training record, including a portfolio of evidence, detailing your practical work.
- After completing your practical training, you will be required to pass the Professional Examination, and will receive the REHIS Diploma in Environmental Health.
- You need a driving licence.
- You should be healthy as you might be exposed to infectious diseases and unhealthy conditions.
- You should be fit as you might have to work at heights or in small spaces.
Most EHOs in Scotland work for local authorities or for government agencies such as the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), but you could move into work in the private sector; in hotels, the catering industry or food manufacturing.
What Does it Take?
You should be:
- able to work to deadlines
- impartial and fair, when collecting facts which may be used in law
- able to pay attention to detail
- computer literate
- honest and responsible
- able to prioritise your workload
- assertive and firm when dealing with uncooperative and perhaps angry people
- able to gather facts, assess situations and decide on action
- able to cope with visiting dirty and unpleasant places.
You need to have:
- team working skills and the ability to work alone
- good written and spoken communication skills
- the ability to write reports and keep accurate records
- good scientific and technical abilities
- an ability to get on well with people from a wide range of backgrounds
- confidence to give evidence in court.
- Once you have completed the 1-year training programme to get your REHIS Diploma, you gain experience through further on the job training.
- The REHIS runs professional courses on a range of food and environmental health topics.
- You would take short courses to keep up to date.
- You might specialise in a particular area of work – you might take further courses to do this.
- You might move on to become a section leader or chief environmental health officer.
- You might become a self-employed consultant.
The following organisations may be able to provide further information.
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