Celebrating World Environmental Health Day: what EH means to me

26 September 2023, Jo Smith CEnvH MCIEH, Private Sector Housing Manager, Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council

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.

I'm Jo Smith and I'm an EHO. That sounds a little bit like I’m in some sort of self-help support group, and to be honest sometimes the work is a little like that, but no, I’m an Environmental Health Officer masquerading as a Manager of the Housing Team at a Local Authority. Housing protects the most vulnerable residents when they need it most – in their safe spaces, their homes. We make sure the properties are safe and free from anything that could affect their mental and physical wellbeing – it’s a wide remit and actually very holistic.

Becoming an Environmental Health Officer

Well, this is showing my age now, I took the JIIG-CAL test that gave you your career advice – and the 3rd from top was EHO! I took it as a sign and decided to go down that career path. I had a fortnight’s work experience at my Local Council’s environmental health department – twice! It was there that I confirmed this was something I wanted to do, as who else would get to go to the beach to dig up cockles and process them in the lab for bacteriological sampling one day, then head out to the end of the runway at RAF Marham to do some noise monitoring the next! I loved every second of my work experience there. I also developed a love for the works of the late, great Terry Pratchett thanks to a very enthusiastic and bonkers food EHO (you know who you are).

During my second stint at the department during 6th Form I asked what the EHO’s had to do to become qualified and it was at this point that I found out about the dreaded logbook (blue one in this case) and I still wanted to do it!

Time passes and I qualify (the Burgundy Logbook, for those interested) and go out into the wide world as a very green EHO, knowing lots of theory but very little about putting it into practice. I start as a noise and nuisance officer, and it was in this post that I appreciated that my work experience had not prepared me for the actual world of work: I was basically a ‘Party Pooper’!

Making a difference with environmental health

Despite all the stresses and strains (let no one tell you Government work is ‘boring’ – some days yes, but other times you’re running away from places, running to places, and shouting at people or occasionally into the void) it’s a very worthwhile career. I went from a country girl thinking everything was roses and kittens to being respected and knowledgeable working in the big smoke (but still with kittens, because kittens) where everything happens so fast, and it might just happen at you rather than with you.

I can honestly say I “make a difference” in the world. To some it might be considered small, but to that person, it means everything. I am profoundly grateful for those that shaped me, those that are still with me today, and those that just came along for the ride. Environmental Health – you never know how it will change someone’s life.

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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