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.
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.