IEMA has published this new advice note, developed by specialists from the IEMA Impact Assessment Network - Health Working Group, providing guidance of what it means to be a competent expert for human health topic leads working in HIA and on human health chapters of larger environmental assessment (e.g., EIA and SEA). IEMA's Impact Assessment lead, Rufus Howard unpacks the new publication.

The use of competent experts in preparing environmental reports has been required under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regulations since 2017, and the requirements also specify that competent authorities should have access to sufficient expertise to review EIA reports received from developers. Among the key factors to be considered under EIA is the effect of a project proposal on population, human health, and risks to human health. Therefore, where there is potential for likely significant effects on these topics, an EIA should include an assessment by a competent expert.

There has been some concern in certain sectors and situations raised by stakeholders and IEMA members that some health assessments have been undertaken by professionals who lack experience and expertise in health assessment and are unlikely to be competent experts. However, until now, there has not been any clear published guidance on what the definition might be for a competent expert for considering health in environmental assessments. This new guidance provides clear advice about defining, describing and demonstrating competence, and includes a useful framework with indicative criteria for Human Health Topic Leads and voluntary criteria for other health impact assessment roles.

Outside of statutory EIAs, there are a range of scenarios where human health needs to be assessed, for example in standalone Health Impact Assessments (HIA), within Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA) and Sustainability Appraisals (SA) or in non-statutory EIAs or environmental assessments. These reports may not specifically require the use of competent experts by law, however, it is IEMA’s view that specialist assessments should be undertaken by competent professionals who are appropriately qualified and experienced to undertake the work.

This latest publication builds on the earlier outputs of the Impact Assessment Health Working Group which published groundbreaking guidance on EIA Guide to Effective Scoping of Human Health, and the EIA Guide to Determining Significance for Human Health in 2022. Taken together these three reports aim to bring greater clarity, consistency and quality to the practice of health assessment as a component of environment assessment.

IEMA would like to thank all the members of the Health Working Group from across the UK and Ireland who contributed to this important statement on competent experts for Health Impact Assessment (HIA) including health in environmental assessments.

Click here to download your free copy of Competent Expert for Health Impact Assessment including Health in Environmental Assessments.

Click here to register for the launch webinar to see a summary and overview of the statement from two of the key authors.

Photo of Rufus howard
Rufus Howard

Policy and Engagement Lead at IEMA, IEMA

Dr Howard is the policy and engagement lead for Impact Assessment at IEMA and a leading professional in EIA, with two decades of international experience across renewable energy and major infrastructure.


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