Environmental health officers are concerned with the effect that various environmental factors have on the health of communities. They are responsible for the management of environmental affairs, which have an influence on the well-being of human beings.
They try to combat the pollution of the environment and so prevent health hazards such as acute respiratory infections, lung cancer, pulmonary emphysema, bronchial asthma, lead poisoning, typhoid, hepatitis or infections in the bloodstream.
Environmental health officers ensure that environmental hygiene is maintained at all times. They prevent or rectify conditions that are or could be detrimental to the community, or that may increase the possibility of the spreading of communicable diseases.
One of the main tasks of environmental officers is the control of land, water, air and noise pollution. They control the biological, chemical and physical content of, for example drinking water, stormwater and effluent water from industries and swimming pools.
Environmental health officers can apply their basic training to many different fields of interest or areas of specialisation, for example:
- inspection and sanitation of drinking water in rural areas
- control and prevention of the spread of diseases such as cholera and typhoid
- monitor pollution, such as radioactive waste and pesticides and the effects of these on plants and marine life, working closely with ecologists
- liaise with chemical and other industries to prevent pollution and eliminate products such as DDT from the biosphere and from water, and to prevent communicable diseases from spreading by way of waste products in food or water
- maintaining a healthy working environment by inspecting industries for problems such as asbestos, smog and other dusts, heat or cold stress, noise, chemicals, and high and low pressure in the case of divers and pilots
- monitor and control the amount of industrial waste and chemical and oil seepage in waterways, dams, rivers and pools
- inspection of restaurants, supermarkets and food manufacturers to ensure that standards of hygiene in the storage, packaging and serving of foodstuffs are maintained, and that foods for retail markets are not labelled in a misleading fashion
- harbour and airport controls with the entry of ships and aircraft to ensure that contagious diseases are not brought into the country.
Environmental health officers assist in the planning and erection of new industries and other buildings in order to prevent and control pollution. They must also see to it that the legislation regarding pollution is complied with. They enforce legislation on standards for noise abatement, water and pollution prevention.
As specialists, environmental health officers may also practise as occupational hygienists. Occupational hygienists recognise, identify, evaluate and control environmental factors that may arise in the workplace.
How to Enter
Schooling & School Subjects
- National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
- National Senior Certificate meeting diploma requirements for a diploma course
Each institution has its own entry requirements.
What to Study
Degree: Environmental Science or Health courses are offered at all universities.
Diploma: Environmental courses are offered at all universities of technology.
The course includes theoretical and practical training. After obtaining this diploma, environmental health officers must register at the INMDC of SA.
After completion of the N.Dip. Environmental Health, students may enrol for the BTech Environmental Health on a part-time or full-time basis.
Post-graduate: Students who wish to further their qualifications can also follow the Masters and Doctorate degrees on a part-time or full-time basis
In order to work in this occupation a relevant registration with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) will be required. Please check the HPCSA website for the most up-to-date information relating to accredited courses and registration requirements. This information can be found in the relevant sections under the Profesional Board of Enviromental Health.
- regional services councils
- Department of Health
- Department of Labour
- Department of Agriculture
- SA Medical Services
- large food manufacturers
- civil and chemical engineering practices
- hotel groups
- local authorities
- Health Professional Council
- self-employment: with enough experience, initiative and capital, can start own company rendering environmental health services
Society of South African Geographers
P O Box 128
Tel: (011) 339-1951 Fax: (011) 403-7281
Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA)
P O Box 205, Pretoria, 0001
Tel: (012) 338-9300
Fax: (012) 328-5120
- make an appointment to speak to an environmental health officer about this type of career and ask permission to observe this work
- read up as much as possible about pollution of land, sea and air biospheres
Programmes by Study Institutions