Environmental Health ensures safe, comfortable and clean facilities
Published on September 13, 2021
Making sure restaurants are clean and safe for diners is just the beginning of what Jackson County’s Environmental Health Department does on a regular basis.
Currently the department is tasked with the enforcement of health orders. The county’s current health order requires that all vaccinated and unvaccinated persons wear a mask indoors in places of public accommodation. Environmental Health responds to complaints submitted by the public.
According to Environmental Health Director Deb Sees, inspectors have received and responded to more than 600 complaints for the current order. Warnings and tickets to appear in court are issued as needed.
The department was awarded the Distinguished Team Award during the 2021 Public Employee Recognition Day Awards for its response during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Environmental Health inspectors are responsible for maintaining community health and safety. They enforce codes, conduct inspections, and provide education on the topic of environmental health,” Sees said.
Part of those responsibilities are the inspection of food establishments, aquatic venues, Lodging, and daycares in Eastern Jackson County.
There are approximately 1,100 food establishments in Jackson County, including restaurants, convenience stores, nursing homes, grocery stores and food trucks. Establishments receive two to four inspections a year based on a risk assessment of procedures the establishment has in place.
Sees said, “The main goal during food inspections is to reduce or prevent food borne illness.”
The department also provides food handler training for all these establishments that focuses on violations that lead to a food borne illness.
Temporary food permits are used for festivals and other gatherings. “We inspect these while they are in operation to ensure the food served to the public is safe,” she said.
Staff also prepares for and responds to truck wrecks, fires and disasters, such as tornados or floods, that involve food.
There are nearly 300 public and semipublic aquatic venues that are inspected including swimming pools, hot tubs, spas and spray grounds. Aquatic venues are inspected using guidelines from the CDC to ensure safe recreational water for everyone.
Inspectors evaluate cleanliness, facility maintenance, hygiene, food protection, diapering and other various procedural issues that promote a healthy environment for the around 100 daycares they inspect.
Lodging establishments are inspected using the guidelines from the state of Missouri for cleanliness, fire hazards and life safety issues.
Environmental Health also operates three wastewater plants that are permitted by Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Permits require that limits are met for safe water as it is discharged.
In coordination with the city of Independence, the department has an animal welfare committee for the regional animal shelter. The shelter is run by Independence and the agreement with the city is monitored by Environmental Health.
Jackson County salutes the Environmental Health Department during the National Healthcare Environmental Services Week. During the second week in September, National Healthcare Environmental Services Week honors the men and women who ensure safe, comfortable and clean facilities all year long. These dedicated employees provide outstanding services. Their knowledge and skill not only keep medical facilities running smoothly, but they help support positive patient outcomes.