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Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I decided to have a look at figures on how effective our Heath & Safety Executive is.

Their website gives the number of accidental deaths last year says 229 workers were killed at work, a rate of 0.8 per 100 000 workers which at first glance looks like a significant improvement over the 651 employee fatalities for 1974 (the year they were formed). That is a reduction of 422 deaths. However they do admit "recent research suggests that about 50% of the reduction in non-fatal injury rate since 1986 is due to changes in occupations of workers" - that means 211 deaths or an expected rate of 440. However we have seen a major change in health care over the years which has seen the murder rate slightly drop though knife & gun attacks are up. Assuming that improved A & E care saves 25% we should expect a death rate of 330.

So on paper the HSE saves 101 lives annually.

Not the biggest factor. Not even as many lives saved as the toothpick industry kill according yesterday's renewablist item. Indeed it is not even enough to say that this is beyond the limits of random statistical variability - or to put it another way there may be no positive effect at all, particularly seeing that (3 million jobs in manufacturing have disappeared, while the service sector now employs 83% of workers).

Which doesn't mean they have had no effect.

The rule of thumb is that every £1 spent on enforcement means £20 cost to those "supported" in this way. That looks like 4 million workers & everything they produce then out of 26.4 million That assumes that the costs are borne equally by all whereas it is quite likely that the cost fall much more heavily on productive industry than government deskworkers. Still it means our effective workforce could increase from 22.4 to 26.4 million - an 18% increase. In the short to medium term this could increase GNP proportionately - in the long term this increased economic efficiency would also push up our long term growth rate, but I am going to ignore that too.

Which brings us to something I saw, via Mark Wadsworth recently
A British Medical Journal study several years ago examined income inequality and its effect on mortality. It estimated that a 1 per cent difference in income translated into 21 deaths per 100,000 per year.
The effect of this differs from a similar looking figure from the HSE that "The rate of fatal injury per 100 000 workers is 0.8" because this applies to everybody not just the workers.

Therefore the net loss of life, excluding any long term GNP growth effects, is 21 per 100,000 times times each of the 18 percentage points of productivity (21 x 620 x 18).

234,360 preventable deaths each year or the death of 234,259 people net annually caused by our "Health & Safety" bureaucracy.

I assume most of these will be pensioners who's lives would not be extended as much as health young workers (including most of the 24,000 excess winter deaths caused by fuel poverty) but that is a minor matter. It is, when looked at properly, a horrendous & totally unnecessary toll created purely because, in looking for ways to do minor good (& create government jobs) the immense harm caused by the inevitable side effect is ignored.

The correlation between national wealth & health & measurable happiness is clear & economic success is certainly the most important factor. The fact that the eco-fascists, health-fascists & general busybodies subsidised by government to push for bigger government ignore it merely proves how egregious they are. Considering the harm they do firing the lot of them tomorrow would not be unkind.

You show your calculations but you haven't given us your starting point of how much is spent on the HSE

Also, where you say "3 million jobs in manufacturing have disappeared, while the service sector now employs 83% of workers", that's already been taken into account in your reduction from 651 to 440 - surely that's largely what they mean by "changes in occupations of workers".

And thirdly, since an effect of H&S is partly to make dangerous jobs more expensive, part of the shift in employment is a result of the increase in costs, and perhaps should be counted, though I can't think of any way to estimate how much.

Not that I think you're wrong, but you're overstating the case for those reasons.
You're right I hadn't givenn the basis for the H&S costs. It is that with a 20-1 ratio & 200,000 regulators we should expect it to cost 4 million jobs. I had done this before on - I will put a link on the article.

I didn't actually change my figures to account for the 83% non-manufacturing - I really only put it in to show that the suggested 50% reduction because of job changes is not an overestimate & may well be be underestimating the change.

Your third is a good point - I have previously reported on how costs of public construction works have risen about 13 times, after inflation & I suspect a lot of this is exactly what we are discussing. H&S problems obviously fall disproportionately on construction & I don't think we could survive such costs across the entire economy. Certainly if the costs were lower we would have a hell of a lot more construction going on but I couldn't even make a useful guess how much either.
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