Celebrating World Environmental Health Day: a day in the life of an environmental health consultant

03 October 2023, Abigail Miller CEnvH MCIEH, Chartered Environmental Health Practitioner and Chartered Safety Practitioner, Director of Abigail Miller Consulting

The five pillars of Environmental Health

For World Environmental Health Day 2023, we invited members to share their experiences of working in environmental health and what it means to protect public health.

Tell us about your work as an environmental health consultant:

I'm a consultant currently working with several well-known firms and organisations. Amongst my clients, I have a large well-known charitable organisation that helps all girls realise their potential, a charitable housing association with care homes, sheltered accommodation and young people services, a national chain of opticians who provide shared services to their partner independent opticians, a company that manages the domestic affairs of an oligarchs large family, a group that runs a number of UK music venues and an organisation that works to maintain and manage their local property portfolio to generate income, which is then invested back into the community through schemes, such as landscaping projects. They also own an open farm and theatre / cinema. 

I offer retained services and also run specific projects for them. 

What do you get up to in your spare time?

In my spare time, I'm a local Parish Councillor and Chair the village Blooming Barton and Christmas Light committees and have two allotments. Oh, and I'm a wife and a granny. 

So, what does a typical day look like?

I don't think there is one!

This week, I've reviewed a clients internal compliance system and identified issues with some of the ways their facilities management contractor is recording compliance issues, with several key checks/issues left off and follow-up actions incorrectly recorded. I've held meetings with the client to discuss the issues and have worked with the company, who supply the system, to improve the dashboards for example, reduce duplications and generally improve data interrogation. 

Every day, I review any incidents that are reported, usually five to six a day, across several clients, and, if needed, investigate (primarily a desktop exercise getting others to do the leg work).

The work with the housing association involves dealing with a lot of client mental health, welfare and safeguarding issues. I've initiated a project for the staff which looks at lone working / managing violence, and we are testing lone working devices and reviewing processes to reduce the risks and provide post-incident support.

I'm often liaising with insurers, providing them with information with regards to various incidents. This week I was looking into an incident involving a branch from a tree that fell onto a car two years ago! The claim only just came in so digging out tree surveys and getting statements to support the defence is going to be a challenge. 

At the end of last week, I was contacted by an ex-client who install secure lockers for parcels, across the country. I previously helped them set up a warehouse for the lockers but was never involved in the installations. They are looking for someone to help them with construction design and management (CDM) and although l provided some basic advice, I had to tell them I was too busy to take on another client at this time. Despite this they seem very keen to contract me and we are looking at dates later in the year.

This morning, Wednesday, I sat in on one company’s employee forum, took the minutes, provided and talked them through a copy of the Monthly Report I had produced earlier in the week. Following that, I have completed my outstanding actions on setting up the training programme and following-up on some issues raised by the Employee Representatives.

I had to quickly switch systems, turn another report into a PowerPoint presentation and then attend their Employee Forum. Luckily, I didn’t need to do the minutes for them and just took them through the PowerPoint presentation of achievements and objectives for the rest of the year. 

Lunchtime my husband James, who is also an EHO, and I, jumped into the car and headed up the M1/M6 for a four-and-a-half-hour journey to visit a client’s Head Office, just outside of Bolton. James is driving as I'm writing this. James the chauffeur has a nice ring about it, but don’t tell him.

Tomorrow, I have a meeting with the optician’s compliance system provider. They’re going through the procurement process. I'm armed with questions and the Requirements Document.

Meanwhile, the large well-known charitable organisation that helps all girls know they can do anything, Property Health and Safety A- Z and the generic risk assessment / checklist I wrote has just come back from the copywriters and they want me to meet to go through their recommendations.

And I’ve just had an incident reported regarding an allergic reaction from a member of staff who ate a tuna sandwich – apparently allergic to tap water, tomatoes, and peppers. I need to investigate what happened although it sounds like she’s ok and didn’t need to go to hospital thankfully.

Busy, busy, busy …

If you would like to learn more about environmental health and becoming an EHP, visit our What is EH? webpage or if you would like to write a blog about your EH experience, please email [email protected].

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