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Environmental Impact

Last updated: May 25, 2018

What Does Environmental Impact Mean?

An environmental impact assessment (EIA) is an assessment of the environmental consequences of a project—often a construction project. Typically, EIAs refer to assessments of projects proposed by organizations such as companies or governments.

The purpose of an EIA is to consider the impact of a project in order to determine whether the project should or can legally proceed when considering its associated environmental costs.

Safeopedia Explains Environmental Impact

EIAs are used to assess what workplace conditions and requirements are necessary in order for the project to meet required environmental health and safety standards. Due to the impact of environmental toxins on health and the difficulties of separating the work environment from the general environment, the International Labour Organization (ILO) considers occupational health to be intimately related to environmental health issues.

An environment assessed by an EIA may intersect with the occupational environment. For instance, the discovery of an occupational safety hazard can act as a warning of a potential environmental hazard. Further, major occupational disasters such as oil rig disasters often have severe environmental impacts. Conversely, EIAs may provide insights into environmental hazards that have direct relevance to worker health and safety. “Life cycle assessment” EIAs that assess the likely environmental impact of a project over the lifetime of its existence may assess the likelihood that a hazard (environmental contaminant) control might fail.

The relationship between a chemical's danger as an occupational hazard and its danger as an environmental hazard is not generally predictable. As such, when OSHA revises regulatory standards involving the presence of or exposure to chemical substances in the workplace to allow higher levels of exposure, it also conducts an EIA to measure whether the revision will have a significant impact on the environment.

Because workers often live in the general area of the plant or other industrial application where they work, potential exposure to occupational hazards in the general environment must be factored into occupational exposure in order to determine potential health and safety effects. According to the ILO, this link between occupational health and safety and environmental impact is especially strong in developing countries. Developing economies may have lowered environmental standards or regulatory gaps that increase the likelihood that high-polluting workplaces could pose health problems to workers due to combined occupational and general environmental exposure.


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