Yesterday, I happened to be in the Stoke-on-Trent area, hoping to cut across the A50 to pass by Loughborough on my way back down South. The A50 was unfortunately closed, the radio lady said, due to a diesel fuel spill. The ‘road ahead closed’ signs confirmed this but offered little advice as to an alternative. I occasionally use a SatNav but this insisted that I keep returning to the blocked route in some voyeuristic tendency.
The point is, accidents are costly. The costs go way beyond the immediate accident and can be difficult to predict or estimate with any certainty. In my case, it was easy to see the effects spread as people searched for alternative routes, causing severe delays elsewhere.
Loftstedt reminds us, in chapter 3 that regulations also have cost implications. In negative terms, this is often referred to as a burden on business. All the time and effort spent in even trying to understand what is required, let alone misinterpreting it and even over-complying with. For example, ridiculously detailed quantified risk assessments for obvious risks with obvious solutions. There have been attempts to estimate this financially and it is always a large figure. In boy-racer terms, it’s at least several hundred Bugatti Veyrons or several billion beer tokens. It seems, that most of the costs are associated with a small number of demanding regulations; echoes of the Pareto principal. These regulations seem obsessively bureaucratic and administrative.
Overall, the cost of accidents can dwarf the cost of compliance with related regulation. In other words, compliance with regulation avoids those accidents. Not all regulation is effective or has a proven ‘protective link’. Indeed it is quite difficult to prove such a link. Nonetheless, there is a “generally accepted” negative correlation between them i.e. that regulation reduces accidents or at least it is a significant factor. Clearly there are many factors at play, including the insurance industry and changes within our industrial profile over the years.
Complying with regulations designed to avoid said accidents means that you may not be entirely convinced that such accidents would ever have happened.
Prof Loftstedt reminds us that one of the main problems in practice is misapplication (over-compliance). This is the concept of, over-restrictive rules having been created and health and safety blamed. The real reasons may not even be health and safety-related. But health and safety is conveniently hated and ridiculed already.
Some of these will be identified in the next blog.