Working for Whitehorse - Environmental Health

Whitehorse News - January 2021

Tattoo parlours, beauty salons and food businesses are all in a day’s work.

Every day is different for Sarah Edmonds – and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

After almost 20 years as an environmental health officer, Ms Edmonds thrives on the knowledge that the next day will always be different to the previous one.

“Our role is to educate, protect public health and prevent the spread of infectious diseases,” she said. “It could be anything. It varies from day-to-day and even after doing this with Whitehorse Council for 16 years I am still learning.

“Every food business, every beauty salon, every tattoo parlour has to register under the relevant legislation and then we have to assess it for food safety and infection control at least once a year.”

She first considered the job when  couple of environmental health officers talked at her school. A look at the applied science degree at Swinburne – the only university offering the course – listed a diverse range of subjects, from law to physics and chemistry.

The prospect of not being office-based also appealed to her. “I get enjoyment and it’s rewarding to see you can help businesses out there to make sure they are doing the right thing,” Ms Edmonds said.

“We have to be ready for any jobs that come through. That could be noise from a concrete batching plant, early morning supermarket deliveries, sewerage from the next door neighbour’s property, immunisation sessions or farmers’ markets at weekends.”

Ms Edmonds said it was “rewarding” to see they could help businesses succeed through education, supporting them to deliver services to the community safely. 

The coronavirus also impacted her role – but in an interesting way, with businesses adapting to no sit-in dining and not as many workers around to buy takeaway food.

“Something that has emerged through this year has been food businesses thinking outside the square,” Ms Edmonds said. “Businesses which tried to come up with new and creative ways to stay open and make money often presented new food safety challenges.”

Pre-prepared meals was one example of this, while there has also been a rise in home-based businesses this year, with people registering their home kitchen to make food that they can sell. Now Ms Edmonds can’t wait to see what the next day will bring.