Index Home About Blog
Newsgroups: comp.risks
X-issue: 7.38
Date: Fri, 19 Aug 88 23:51:36 EDT
From: attcan!utzoo!henry@uunet.UU.NET
Subject: British vs American safety rules

> ... He added that he thought British law and tradition were more
> protective of people and sensitive to safety concerns than in the USA.  For
> example, MOD regulations explicitly prohibit any cost saving that might
> increase hazard to life -- you are not allowed to trade lives off against
> money.

Britons should not consider this reassuring; it is, in fact, alarming.
This rule was obviously written by a politician (possibly not an elected
one or a recognized one, mind you...), not by an experienced engineer.
It is *always* necessary to trade lives off against money, because there
is no limit to the money that can be spent adding more 9's on the end of
99.9999% reliability.  What this rule is doing is guaranteeing that the
risks and tradeoffs will not be discussed openly!

Consider what is likely to happen.  Manufacturers, under pressure to keep
costs under control, will quietly and privately evaluate the tradeoffs.
Since they are forbidden to introduce changes that increase hazards, yet
may need to make changes as the customer (the government) shifts its
priorities around, the obvious thing to do is to start out with the
cheapest and *most hazardous* version.  If this can be gotten past the
inspectors somehow -- nobody should be surprised if manufacturers are
less than completely open about hazard analyses! -- then with luck, all
further changes that affect safety can be in the direction of improved
safety.  At higher cost, of course.  Assuming that it can be funded in
that year's budget, of course.

Is this rule really serving its intended purpose?

Henry Spencer @ U of Toronto Zoology  

Index Home About Blog