What is an Environmental Health Officer?
Environmental Health Officers (EHO) are in charge of visiting businesses and inspecting them, the types of checks that they do are health and safety checks and food hygiene and standard checks.
What powers does an Environmental Health Officer have?
EHO’s have a number of powers, these include that they can give verbal and written advice on any matters that are minor. They can seize any food that is unfit, as well as take photographs and samples, that they will then write a report on. They can also close food premises immediately when there is an imminent risk to the health of the public. As well as take a company to Court if they have broken laws, this can result in a hefty fine.
When the environmental health officer has finished their inspection, they will produce a rating under the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme, this will then be published online, so everyone will be able to see what rating your business got. If it was a bad one, this can put people off coming and this could result in your business struggling financially and resulting in you having to shut. This is why it is best to make sure you practice good food hygiene, as well as making sure that all your staff have the relevant training, such as a CPD course, so that good practice can be put into place in the workplace, so that when an environmental health officer does their inspection, you come out with a good rating, that you will be proud to show off.
According to The Times ‘15,000 restaurants are putting customers at risk’, make sure you aren’t one of them!
How to plan for an inspection
It is important that you always keep documents up to date and well organised, this is good practice to keep up with continually, as often EHO’s will turn up unannounced. Make sure you keep your documents in a place that is easy to access and that all supervisors know where the documents are stored, just in case the visit happens to be on the managers day off.
Make sure you have all documents from previous inspections to hand, as often the EHO will want to see these. It is also important to keep a file of any customer complains for the EHO to look at.
You will need to make sure that you keep your food safety policy up to date, you are required to produce one of these and this can be used to help attain good hygiene practices.
What will the Environmental Health Officer check?
The EHO can visit unannounced, but the visit will be conducted during your businesses trading hours, this is so that they will be able to monitor the food processes and staff.
They will audit, all food safety procedures, this includes staff hygiene, as well as the cleanliness of the building, they will also look at the cleaning regimes that you have in place.
Another thing that they will look at is documentation, training and confidence of staff, to check the food safety management is running well.
The ratings and what they mean
When the EHO has conducted their inspection, they will then give the business a rating, this ranges from 5 star – 0. 5 stars is very good and means that the EHO won’t need to come for another 3 years. However, a rating of 0 means that the EHO will be back to visit within a month, to check if the business is making improvements. Businesses are legally required to display their rating, this will often come in the form of a sticker, that can be stuck to a window, they have to make sure that they display it where it is visible for people to see.
What will happen during an inspection?
Often inspections will start from one side of the premises, then work through to the other side of the building, this helps the EHO to observe the running of the business. The EHO will also look at every step in the food production process and check that all steps run smoothly.
EHO’s may also want to check all equipment, fixtures and fittings, this means that they may need to move or dismantle equipment, so that they can check the quality of everything, as well as if cleaning takes place in these hidden areas.
The EHO may also want to empty cupboards and refrigerators to check the quality of them, they will also inspect the organisation of the cupboards, fridges and freezers, to make sure that cross contamination isn’t occurring, as well as making sure there is no food stored that is out of date.
When the EHO has finished their inspection, they will analyse the data they have gathered, this is so that they can try understand why certain policies may not have been followed by the business, as well as looking at ways that the business can improve.
What will happen next?
After the inspection has taken place and the data has been analysed, a report will then be published, this will include the good things and the bad things, there will be praise for the good things and any faults will be explained and the steps to be taken will be outlined. Timeframes will be given, as to when the improvements should be made by. The timescale will depend on the number of faults there was and how easy they are to rectify.