What is the Role of an Environmental Public Health Inspector?
When you think about what a public health inspector does, probably what most readily comes to mind is the inspection of food in places like restaurants, bakeries and stores. You may think that's all they do, because this part of their job receives the most attention; however, you may be surprised to learn about the many ways their work contributes to protecting the public’s health thru a multi-faceted approach that includes inspection, education and when necessary enforcement activities.
Public health inspectors are highly trained individuals whose training generally includes a four-year university degree in Environmental Health followed by certification by the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors. To become nationally certified, public health inspectors must complete a field training practicum, submit a number of reports and pass the Institute's oral exam. Some inspectors have additional training in areas such as biology, toxicology and epidemiology.
As mentioned, most know of the important job inspectors at public health units have in reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses, which can cause stomach cramps, diarrhea, fever, nausea, vomiting, and in some rare cases, kidney failure and death. In fact, they inspect food establishments of all kinds (e.g. restaurants, supermarkets, bakeries, food take-outs, cafeterias, food manufacturers and food warehouses) on a regular basis.
Do you know who also keeps you safe whenever you use water - whether it's for drinking, cooking, cleaning or recreation? Who helps facilitate drinking water sampling, and provides advice when water samples indicate it is not safe to drink and that recreational water such as beaches, public pools and spas is safe for swimming? Public health inspectors do. They work with public and private water suppliers and the Ministry of the Environment to help ensure the safety of drinking water, which can come from groundwater sources, or surface waters like lakes and rivers. They also inspect beaches, public pools and spas to ensure these venues do not contribute to outbreaks of water-borne diseases and do not cause injuries.
Who helps to protect you and your family when you're out and about and have an unexpected encounter with an animal that results in a bite or scratch that may have exposed you to rabies. Public health inspectors investigate all reported bite incidents and can help to determine whether the bite victim is at risk of contracting rabies. If bitten by an unknown or wild animal, there is the possibility of contracting rabies, a viral disease transmitted from an infected mammal to another mammal. Quick action is needed since the virus is often fatal. Public health inspectors can arrange for the provision of post exposure treatment with the rabies vaccine.
Public health inspectors also work to reduce the risks of contracting vector borne diseases such as West Nile Virus (WNv) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) that are transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitoes, and Lyme disease that is transmitted by infected ticks. They do this by educating the public and personal protection strategies and by identifying areas of risk thru surveillance that includes trapping and dragging for mosquitoes and ticks. Human cases of these diseases are also followed up.
Daycares, barber shops, salons, esthetic spas and tattoo and piercing parlours are inspected by public health inspectors to ensure best practices for infection prevention and control are in place to protect the clients using these services as well as the staff working at these establishments.
Public health inspectors also investigate outbreaks of disease such as food and water borne illness, Legionella, and many others.
When you stop to think about it, you can see that public health inspectors help protect not only the food we eat - but also the water we drink, the air we breathe as well as help make the outdoors safe and enjoyable.