Industrial Safety

Plant safety: How much is a human life worth?

How do you include the cost of a work-related fatality in cost estimation?

By Dirk Willard

How much is a human life worth? According to the 2014 edition of the National Safety Council’s (NSC) “Injury Facts,” the direct cost of a work-related death in the U.S. is about $1 million. As a rule of thumb, the indirect costs are four times the direct costs. Nowadays, such fatalities are rare.

Now, I ask you to consider an issue that’s not politically correct: how do you include the cost of a work-related fatality in cost estimation? Putting a price on human life isn’t a topic your college professor discussed in public. However, it can bolster the case for investing in safety, even though your boss probably won’t welcome such a discussion. Of course, you could forego such a talk to stay in your boss’s good graces. You might not sleep well, though.

By the way, work-related injuries are expensive, too. An injury involving a trip to the hospital incurs a direct cost of $39,000, according to that NSC report. Indirect costs again are four times higher. Indirect costs assume a lawyer sues your company, and, maybe, you. Still think you can sleep tonight?

To learn more, read "Worker Safety: Forget Political Correctness" from Chemical Processing.