Does Your Workplace Spend More on Window-Cleaning Than Emergency Preparedness?


I recently met with a facility that asked me for advice surrounding their Emergency Management program. It’s fair to say that this particular facility is huge. I’m talking tall, iconic and heavily populated.

“You see, pretty basic.” was how the Property Management team described the training and emergency advice they’d been receiving. Apparently emergency training was poorly attended and the hope was that by changing the person conducting the training to someone more ‘passionate’ (me) would have the building’s occupants flocking to the training sessions.

“Firstly, I cautioned, how many sessions a year are you doing now?” I asked. 

“Three.” They responded. 

Next question from myself. “And this building holds how many people?”

“Six thousand” They replied.

Therein lies the rub. Here’s a facility spending roughly $3000 a year on 6000 people to prepare them and a $2.7b building for maximum effectiveness when an emergency strikes. Yet the very same facility spends around $54,000 on window cleaning.

So I asked the Property Management team if they would be comfortable standing in front of a Judge or even a Coroner whilst explaining that “We spend 50 cents per person every year for occupant safety and emergency preparedness your Honour!”

I thought not. Emergency Management is an investment not a cost and when compared to the cost of not investing in preparedness, it throws up the question as to just exactly, how much is a life worth? (Hint: A shit-load more than 50 cents!)

So I did some research.


In Australia, the value of a statistical life has been set at: 

  • $4.2 million (2014)[1]

  • $182,000 per year (2014)

New Zealand

In New Zealand, the value of a statistical life has been set at: 

  • $2 million (1991) by NZTA[9]

  • $3.85 million (2013) by The Treasury[10]

  • $4.14 million (2016) by NZTA[9]


According to different estimates life value in Russia varies from $40,000 up to $2 million. On the results of opinion poll life value (as the cost of financial compensation for the death) in the beginning of 2015 was about $71,500.[11]

United States

The following estimates have been applied to the value of life. The estimates are either for one yearof additional life or for the statistical value of a single life. 

  • $50,000 per year of quality life (the "dialysis standard",[12]which had been a de facto international standard most private and government-run health insurance plans worldwide use to determine whether to cover a new medical procedure)[13]

  • $129,000 per year of quality life (an update to the "dialysis standard")[14][13]

  • $9.1 million (Environmental Protection Agency, 2010)[15]

  • $7.9 million (Food and Drug Administration, 2010)[15]

  • $9.4 million (Department of Transportation, 2015)[16]

  • $9.6 million (Department of Transportation, Aug. 2016)[17]

Putting a price on human life may seem callous, but for safety analysts, it's simply necessary. They judge whether a certain safety regulation would be cost-effective by comparing how much it would cost to implement with how many dollar's worth of human lives it's likely to save.