Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIAs) are a critical project tool in identifying potential impacts to the environment, and appropriate risk reduction options to manage these impacts and associated risks. Concurrent to the ESIA process, safety studies must also be undertaken for safety risks. Many of these safety risks are associated with unplanned events, and can also have environmental and social consequences.

Most impacts, including unplanned events, can be either prevented or mitigated through their early consideration during project design. If ESIA considerations and safety studies are evaluated in parallel at the concept and feasibility stages, a project will have more options available to avoid or mitigate impacts. This has a critical financial benefit, as early changes to project design are generally less expensive.

A holistic approach during the early stages of the project's concept design requires collaboration between safety professionals and ESIA specialists to identify the various hazards, their consequences, and potential risk reduction mechanisms.

This paper advocates holistic team organization, which will have the following key aspects:

  • An outcome-focused, well organized and front-loaded approach;

  • Collaboration to carry out project definition, ESIA, and safety studies in parallel;

  • Embed the risk reduction measures within the project definition in collaboration with stakeholders;

  • Satisfy the regulatory requirements and prevent environmental, social, and safety impacts from the outset; and

  • Facilitate a positive outcome that results in sustainable development.

The integration of environmental, social, and safety considerations at the early concept and feasibility stages of a project represents a holistic approach that will result in significant cost savings and reduced risk to schedule delays as the project progresses.

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