Exclusive: An Interview with South African Environmental Health Practitioner (EHP)

Yashmitha Bhudram an Environmental Health Practitioner (EHP) shares her story and experiences in Pretoria, South Africa with the local government City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality.

What do you love about Environmental Health (EH)?

“It’s all around us, it’s everything we are” ~ Yashmitha Bhudram

Years in Environmental Health

13 years

Day in the life of an EHP in South Africa

As an Environmental Health Generalist she would need to conduct Proactive (routine) and Reactive (complaints) inspections in these following aspects:

  • Health and safety audits for food premises inspection on food hygiene.
  • Environmental pollution (unsafe waste disposal, air quality and noise pollution)
  • Law enforcement of Anti-Social Behaviour
  • Health surveillance of premises and business operations
  • Water Quality
  • Contagious diseases
  • Vector infestations
  • Health issues at cemeteries, mortuaries, funeral undertakers and crematoriums.
  • Hazardous waste and Chemical hazards.
  • Development and implementation of mitigation measures.

What was your inspiration to get into Environmental Health?

At a young age Yashmitha was introduced to Environmental Health from her father and uncle who were also Environmental Health Practitioners. Initially, Yashmitha wanted to study Microbiology, she had later found her passion in Environmental Health when she had applied for a job in Cambridge. During the the interview one of the questions asked was:

“What was your first inspection?”

To which she replied

“My first inspection was at 6 years old and they were very confused. I went to dairy farm, I remember going with my dad to the dairy farm and everything he had done, in the end I got a yoghurt.”

What do you enjoy about being an EHP?

In addition to the change of different aspects daily as an EHP, confrontation is something Yashmitha enjoys dealing with on the job.

“The key to confrontation is if you know what you know, confident in what you know, there is no need to be issues with confrontation. If confrontation does go out of hand I know when to back down and walk away.

“You must be able to hear the other person’s point of view, when you listen to what they have to say and what you are going to respond with that makes the job interesting.”

What is an issue you see on a daily basis?

“If farmers’ crops and stock are not up to quality then a lot of food and crops are wasted which can be given to orphanages, zoos and animals.”

Do you find being an EHP challenging?

“People always say environmental health is boring but I wouldn’t say it is a challenge, it is an experience. You get to meet new people, you see new things and you will find similarities. You get a set of rules that you must adapt to in one situation that is different from the next situation”

What are your future plans in your EH Career?

“Thinking of practising environmental health in the UK, possibly specialising further into aspects later in my career.”

How do you become a registered EHP in South Africa?

Firstly, you will require a Diploma/Degree in Environmental Health then postgraduate students would require a registration with the HPCSA (Health Professions Council of South Africa) who deals with all Health Professionals ranging from medical, dental to Environmental Health.

After registration they would need to be employed in Local Authority/Government in order to be fully registered and conduct practices in Environmental Health.

Differences between an EHP in South Africa vs the UK

  • Must be a registered EHP with the HPCSA to conduct any environmental health.
  • EHPs would need to work on-site/ in the office all day. They would be required to drive to all sites and premises as public transport is limited and walking to premises would not be ideal. After an inspection, reports would be written up on-site or in the office.
  • Due to low funding in the Health sector and a shortage of vacancies, there is a high unemployment rate of postgraduate Environmental Health students who cannot get jobs in local authorities.
  • No private sector vacancies that delve into the EH sector.
  • Specialism into different aspects and fields of Environmental Health are not preferred by EHPs as there is not enough work in local authorities to warrant this.

What do you think about Ai/Robots being used in the future of EH?

“I definitely do think it is a possibility, the manner in which we are evolving it should be considered as there is a lot of human error, it would be more hygienic and keep us safer. At the end of the day environmental health is a human responsibility we should learn to take initiative to take care of the environment.”

What advice would you give for EHPs?

  • Strong attention to detail to problems and issues.
  • Know your legislations and laws.
  • Be adaptive as the people and environment are constantly changing.
  • Preparation and planning ahead is important.


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