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What is an Environmental Health Officer?

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  • Written By: Linda Hinkle
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2016
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An environmental health officer (EHO) is a person who works to ensure the public health. Some environmental health officers work for private organizations, while others are employed with government agencies. Although duties and responsibilities may vary depending on where the officer works, the job always involves making sure that people’s living and working conditions are safe and healthy.

Other names for an environmental health officer include environmental health consultant, environmental health specialist, and public health officer. Most officers work for local governmental agencies responsible for the public’s health and safety. EHOs may also work for large companies, for the military, or independently as private consultants. Environmental health officers often work in teams, directed by a team leader.

Environmental health officers deal with a vast range of issues. Some of the most common concerns they must address are disease prevention, food safety, industrial hygiene, and emergency preparedness. They provide leadership, support, and services to various programs designed to protect the public. An environmental health officer may specialize and focus on one particular area, such as food safety or injury prevention, or he may deal with all health issues in one particular geographic area.

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These professionals develop and implement laws and policies governing public health and the environment. To monitor and enforce those laws, they may conduct inspections for health violations, investigate complaints of food contamination, conduct building regulation inspections, and investigate work-place accidents. They must keep accurate records, compile statistics, write reports, and provide evidence in court cases concerning violations of health and environmental regulations.

One of the most visible activities of an environmental health officer is responding to public health emergencies and natural disasters. Officers are expected to respond quickly and work to protect the public from environmental and sanitation threats. They also should provide services to help communities recover from a disaster.

Another component of an environmental health officer’s job is educating the public about various health issues. Officers may make presentations to schools, community groups, and civic organizations. They can be instrumental in developing and distributing educational materials about such topics as disease prevention, occupational safety, hazardous waste control, and good health habits.

Some environmental health officers work in some highly specialized areas. They may conduct epidemiological and biomedical research, or focus on specific areas such as counterterrorism, hazardous waste disposal, or health physics. Environmental health officers are usually highly skilled health professionals with extensive training and education.

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Discuss this Article

vhunter
Post 8

What kind of education is required for an environmental health officer?

jmc88
Post 6

What kind of education does an environmental health officer have? It seems like there are a wide range of degrees you could have that would be applicable.

Also, besides local health departments, who else hires environmental health officers?

titans62
Post 5

I know in my state every county has a public health department. Is this the same in every state, or are there different systems depending on where you live?

Besides covering things like food sanitation, my health department is responsible for making sure different vaccinations are available for county residents. Normally, I get my flu shot as part of my job, but they can give them out, as well. I have never had chicken pox, so I have to visit the county health department every ten years to get the vaccination.

Monika
Post 4

@Azuza - Reading your comment makes me think that perhaps environmental health officers should tailor their presentations to the age group they're addressing. Killer germs are perhaps not appropriate for middle schoolers!

Anyway, I was kind of interested to see what kind of education is necessary to become an environmental health officer. I did a quick search and apparently you need a bachelor's degree in occupational health or something like biology. That makes sense!

Azuza
Post 3

I remember hearing a presentation from an environmental health officer when I was in middle school. It was all about kitchen safety and I have to admit that it totally scared me.

From what the health officer said, our kitchens are teeming with germs that want nothing more than to kill us. OK, that might be a slight exaggeration, but that was the impression that I got from the presentation.

I was completely paranoid about food safety for about a year after that. Which could be a good thing, but I think that presentation got me a little too worried!

Mykol
Post 2

Several years ago we bought some property in the country where we intended to build a house. The man we bought the land from had owned it for a long time.

He never lived on the property, but just kept a lot of junk there. Part of our agreement when we bought the place was that we would clear out the junk since my husband had access to the equipment to do so.

Way at the back of the property were some barrels that we had to have inspected by an environmental health officer. They needed to make sure there wasn't any hazardous waste in them or that they weren't leaking anything into the ground.

An officer

came to our place and inspected them and took a few samples. We had to wait a few weeks before we got a report back saying that everything was OK.

They even agreed to remove these barrels for us so they knew they were properly disposed of. It was interesting when talking to this environmental health officer as he had several interesting stories about his job.

bagley79
Post 1

When I think of an environmental health officer, I am reminded of the inspectors that visit restaurants to make sure they meet the food safety requirements.

Until recently I didn't know that this was public information where you could go online and see what a restaurants public health record was.

Since I like to eat out quite often, this is important to me. We have our favorite restaurants that we eat at on a regular basis, but I like to know how a restaurant rates if I have never eaten there before.

Every once in a while there will be a local news report on recent health inspections at local, popular restaurants. I am always surprised when

a restaurant I thought would get a good report doesn't.

It makes me a little bit more aware of cautious of where I eat when I go out. I think it is good to have environmental health officers like this who enforce the laws when it comes to public health and safety.

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