EHO is a term thrown around by certain businesses – especially food businesses. Whether people say “Our EHO visit is due” or “We had a great EHO rating” – do people really understand what EHO stands for?
Ultimately, EHO stands for Environmental Health Officer. You are probably most familiar with Environmental Health Officers are the folks from the council wearing their white coats and hats. In reality, Environmental Health Officer’s work in all sorts of industries and sectors. Being an EHO is a level of qualification, rather than a job title – similar to an Accountant. As such, you will find EHOs working in both local authorities, but also within businesses.
The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health has actually replaced the term Environmental Health Officer with a newer term – Environmental Health Practitioner (EHP). Despite this the term EHO is still broadly used as most are familiar with it and it is well tied in – with EHO often being used as a job title as well. Slowly the term EHP is being used more, but it will likely take years before it fully replaces the term EHO.
What does an EHO do?
As mentioned above the work of an EHO is pretty broad. Typically it can consist of a number of areas that full under the umbrella of Environmental Health. These areas normally are:
- Food safety;
- Health & safety;
- Environmental protection;
- Housing standards;
- Public health.
Within local authorities EHOs are typically responsible for ensuring standards are maintained within their area related to the above. In some local authorities EHOs are what is described as specialists. Specialist EHOs focus on a single aspect of Environmental Health. In other local authorities (although this is somewhat less common these days) the EHOs are known as generalists. Generalists typically cover a set geographical region for all aspects of Environmental Health.
Local authority EHOs carry out work that is split into two – proactive and reactive. Proactive work includes carrying out routine inspections of premises, carrying out projects to improve awareness and compliance with regulations. Reactive work involves responding to complaints, incidents, etc. Proactive work is usually pretty well planned – a known amount of work needs to be completed over a known period of time. However reactive work is very different, EHOs never know what will come in. Most EHOs will be able to tell you that most issues usually come in just as they are putting their coat on and walking out of the office. This mixture of work keeps things interesting.
Within the private sector EHOs use their expertise (typically after experience in local authority) to advise businesses. Again work is normally split between proactive and reactive. Proactive work may include developing policies and procedures related to Environmental Health for a business. Similar to local authorities, reactive work will usually include responding to complaints or incidents.
Who does an EHO work with?
The role of an EHO is never a lonely one. Within local authorities EHO’s usually work with Technical Officers. These have slightly less powers than an EHO, but often complete broadly the same work as an EHO. Technical Officers then call on the EHO to support when legal notices need to be served, etc. In some cases a Technical Officer may be working on becoming a fully qualified EHO – with the Technical Officer role allowing them to gain vital experience in the field to allow them to become qualified.
What powers does an EHO have?
I’m likely to cover this in a more in-depth post in the future, but as a summary. Under various pieces of legislation EHOs have a number of powers.
Typically the powers include:
- Powers to assist inspecting premises – such as being able to enter premises;
- Powers to assist investigating issues – such as being able to take samples and inspect records and documentation;
- Powers to assist in ensuring issues are resolved – such as serving legal notices and prosecuting.
Where a business or individual does not cooperate they could be taken to court for obstruction. The EHO may seek the support of the police to carry out their duties safely.
Where individuals or businesses are prosecuted they may face a fine or imprisonment. Depending on the exact nature of the case the fine could be significant – fines measured in millions rather than hundreds or thousands have been dished out.
How do I become an EHO?
I’m planning on covering this more in depth in a dedicated post in the near future. That said, it probably makes sense for me to put a bit of information here. The path to becoming an EHO is managed by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (also known as the CIEH). The CIEH has a page on it’s website detailing how to become an EHO. It isn’t an easy path and will likely take years to become a qualified EHO, but it is an enjoyable and challenging career.