Environmental health officer

What they do

Environmental health officers monitor and enforce public health and safety regulations. They carry out inspections at locations where food is kept to ensure that it is handled and stored in a safe and hygienic manner. They also test drinking water and monitor the quality of water in lakes, rivers, dams and pools to ensure there is no harmful bacteria present. Environmental health officers are responsible for ensuring that public buildings have adequate ventilation and easy access to fire escapes. Their duties may also include monitoring health concerns as diverse as air pollution, noise levels, housing standards, the spread of infectious diseases, pest control and poisons regulation.

Working conditions

The majority of environmental health officers are employed by local governments in locations all over Western Australia. At present, there is a strong demand for environmental health officers in regional areas. There are also opportunities to work for the Australian Defence Force, state and federal government agencies and large food processing companies. Environmental health officers usually have an office base, but spend most of their time conducting site visits. They carry out inspections at locations as diverse as restaurants, nightclubs, tattoo and beauty parlours as well as childcare facilities.

Tools and technologies

Environmental health officers use thermometers, sealed and sterile jars and other sampling equipment to monitor noise and light levels when carrying out site visits. When visiting unhygienic, unpleasant or potentially dangerous sites they may be required to wear protective clothing such as masks, gloves and hair nets. Environmental health officers must also use computers and general office equipment to keep detailed records of their work and any evidence to be used in legal proceedings.

How do I become one?

Education and training

To become an environmental health officer, you usually need to study an accredited degree majoring in environmental health.

Edith Cowan University offers a three-year Bachelor of Health Science (Environmental Health). This is the only undergraduate degree specialising in environmental health available in Western Australia. The University of Central Queensland offers a Bachelor of Public Health (Environmental Health) in an online study format, combined with in-residence requirements in Queensland.

Alternatively, you can undertake a degree in a related discipline, followed by a postgraduate qualification in environmental health.

Some universities in Western Australia offer relevant postgraduate courses. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.