What's a Life Worth? The Value Placed on Safety

Document Type

Journal Article


CCH Australia LTD


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Psychology and Social Science / Social Justice Research Centre




Bahn, S. T., & Barratt-Pugh, L. G. (2009). What's a life worth? The value placed on safety. Journal of Occupational Health and Safety: Australia and New Zealand, 25(5), 393-404. Available here.


This adicle examines the safety values of managers and their impact on safety in the workplace. A case study on the civil construction industry in Western Australia that was undertaken between 2005 and 2007 provides the materialfrom which this discussion is drawn. A safety values inventory (that was developed collaboratively with managers) identifies the importance placed on specific values according to business size. This ranking activity indicates that the managers in the civil construction industry who participated in the study place different priorities on safety and have different approaches to achieving a safe working environment, depending on whether they work in small to micro businesses or in medium to large businesses. The article concludes that work practices in the industry are influenced by the values that emerge from continual conflicts between safety and production, and the numerous and sometimes contradictory communications of the managers who disseminate these values throughout the organisation.