Testing the validity of the “value of a prevented fatality” (VPF) used to assess UK safety measures

Philip J Thomas, Geoffrey J Vaughan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
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The “value of a prevented fatality” (VPF), the maximum amount that it is notionally reasonable to pay for a safety measure that will reduce by one the expected number of preventable premature deaths in a large population, is published by the UK Department for Transport (DfT). The figure, updated for changes in GDP per head, is used by the DfT, the Health and Safety Executive and other UK regulatory bodies as well as very widely in the process, nuclear and other industries as the standard by which to judge how much to spend to reduce harm to humans. The paper tests the validity of the 1999 study on which the VPF is based and finds that that study fails numerous tests of its validity. It is concluded that there is no evidential base for the VPF that has been used for many years in the UK and is still in standard use today. Given the difficulties evident in the interpretation of survey results, an urgent re-appraisal is needed of alternative statistical methodologies that can allow robust regulatory and industry safety decision making and, vitally, give adequate protection to the UK public and to those working in the UK's transport, process, nuclear and other industries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-261
Number of pages23
JournalProcess Safety and Environmental Protection
Early online date21 Jul 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2015


  • Safety
  • Health and safety
  • Value of a prevented fatality
  • VPF
  • Department for Transport
  • Health and Safety Executive


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