(1) LEGISLATIVE INTENT.—Persons responsible for providing technical and scientific evaluations of environmental health and sanitary conditions in business establishments and communities throughout the state may create a danger to the public health if they are not skilled or competent to perform such evaluations. The public relies on the judgment of environmental health professionals employed by both government agencies and industries to assure them that environmental hazards are identified and removed before they endanger the health or safety of the public. The purpose of this section is to assure the public that persons specifically responsible for performing environmental health and sanitary evaluations have been certified by examination as competent to perform such work.
(2) DEFINITIONS.—As used in this section:
(a) “Board” means the Environmental Health Professionals Advisory Board.
(b) “Department” means the Department of Health.
(c) “Environmental health” means that segment of public health work which deals with the examination of those factors in the human environment which may impact adversely on the health status of an individual or the public.
(d) “Environmental health professional” means a person who is employed or assigned the responsibility for assessing the environmental health or sanitary conditions, as defined by the department, within a building, on an individual’s property, or within the community at large, and who has the knowledge, skills, and abilities to carry out these tasks. Environmental health professionals may be either field, supervisory, or administrative staff members.
(e) “Certified” means a person who has displayed competency to perform evaluations of environmental or sanitary conditions through examination.
(f) “Registered sanitarian,” “R.S.,” “Registered Environmental Health Specialist,” or “R.E.H.S.” means a person who has been certified by either the National Environmental Health Association or the Florida Environmental Health Association as knowledgeable in the environmental health profession.
(g) “Primary environmental health program” means those programs determined by the department to be essential for providing basic environmental and sanitary protection to the public. At a minimum, these programs shall include food protection program work and onsite sewage treatment and disposal system evaluations.
(3) CERTIFICATION REQUIRED.—No person shall perform environmental health or sanitary evaluations in any primary program area of environmental health without being certified by the department as competent to perform such evaluations. This section does not apply to:
(a) Persons performing inspections of public food service establishments licensed under chapter 509; or
(b) Persons performing site evaluations in order to determine proper placement and installation of onsite wastewater treatment and disposal systems who have successfully completed a department-approved soils morphology course and who are working under the direct responsible charge of an engineer licensed under chapter 471.
(4) ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS ADVISORY BOARD.—The State Health Officer shall appoint an advisory board to assist the department in the promulgation of rules for certification, testing, establishing standards, and seeking enforcement actions against certified professionals.
(a) The board shall be comprised of the Division Director for Environmental Health or his or her designee, one individual who will be certified under this section, one individual not employed in a governmental capacity who will or does employ a certified environmental health professional, one individual whose business is or will be evaluated by a certified environmental health professional, a citizen of the state who neither employs nor is routinely evaluated by a person certified under this section.
(b) The board shall advise the department as to the minimum disciplinary guidelines and standards of competency and proficiency necessary to obtain certification in a primary area of environmental health practice.
1. The board shall recommend primary areas of environmental health practice in which environmental health professionals should be required to obtain certification.
2. The board shall recommend minimum standards of practice which the department shall incorporate into rule.
3. The board shall evaluate and recommend to the department existing registrations and certifications which meet or exceed minimum department standards and should, therefore, exempt holders of such certificates or registrations from compliance with this section.
4. The board shall hear appeals of certificate denials, revocation, or suspension and shall advise the department as to the disposition of such an appeal.
5. The board shall meet as often as necessary, but no less than semiannually, handle appeals to the department, and conduct other duties of the board.
6. Members of the board shall receive no compensation but are entitled to reimbursement for per diem and travel expenses in accordance with s. 112.061. (5) STANDARDS FOR CERTIFICATION.—The department shall adopt rules that establish definitions of terms and minimum standards of education, training, or experience for those persons subject to this section. The rules must also address the process for application, examination, issuance, expiration, and renewal of certification and ethical standards of practice for the profession. (a) Persons employed as environmental health professionals shall exhibit a knowledge of rules and principles of environmental and public health law in Florida through examination. A person may not conduct environmental health evaluations in a primary program area unless he or she is currently certified in that program area or works under the direct supervision of a certified environmental health professional.
1. All persons who begin employment in a primary environmental health program on or after September 21, 1994, must be certified in that program within 6 months after employment.
2. Persons employed in the primary environmental health program of a food protection program or an onsite sewage treatment and disposal system prior to September 21, 1994, shall be considered certified while employed in that position and shall be required to adhere to any professional standards established by the department pursuant to paragraph (b), complete any continuing education requirements imposed under paragraph (d), and pay the certificate renewal fee imposed under subsection (7).
3. Persons employed in the primary environmental health program of a food protection program or an onsite sewage treatment and disposal system prior to September 21, 1994, who change positions or program areas and transfer into another primary environmental health program area on or after September 21, 1994, must be certified in that program within 6 months after such transfer, except that they will not be required to possess the college degree required under paragraph (e).
4. Registered sanitarians shall be considered certified and shall be required to adhere to any professional standards established by the department pursuant to paragraph (b).
(b) At a minimum, the department shall establish standards for professionals in the areas of food hygiene and onsite sewage treatment and disposal.
(c) Those persons conducting primary environmental health evaluations shall be certified by examination to be knowledgeable in any primary area of environmental health in which they are routinely assigned duties.
(d) Persons who are certified shall renew their certification biennially by completing not less than 24 contact hours of continuing education for each program area in which they maintain certification, subject to a maximum of 48 hours for multiprogram certification.
(e) Applicants for certification shall have graduated from an accredited 4-year college or university with a degree or major coursework in public health, environmental health, environmental science, or a physical or biological science.
(f) A certificateholder shall notify the department within 60 days after any change of name or address from that which appears on the current certificate.
(6) EXEMPTIONS.—A person who conducts primary environmental evaluation activities and maintains a current registration or certification from another state agency which examined the person’s knowledge of the primary program area and requires comparable continuing education to maintain the certificate shall not be required to be certified by this section. Examples of persons not subject to certification are physicians, registered dietitians, certified laboratory personnel, and nurses.
(7) FEES.—The department shall charge fees in amounts necessary to meet the cost of providing certification. Fees for certification shall be not less than $10 or more than $300 and shall be set by rule. Application, examination, and certification costs shall be included in this fee. Fees for renewal of a certificate shall be no less than $25 nor more than $150 per biennium.
(8) PENALTIES.—The department may deny, suspend, or revoke a certificate or impose an administrative fine of up to $500 for each violation of this section or a rule adopted under this section or may pursue any other enforcement action authorized by law. Any person who has had a certificate revoked may not conduct environmental health evaluations in a primary program area for a minimum of 5 years from the date of revocation.