We seem to have been on the receiving end of rather a lot of disruption in the last few weeks: in September we lost phone service for 72 hours and then last week we had problems with both power and internet service. It has certainly been a good opportunity to test our Business Continuity plans!
Perhaps the most interesting disruption was the loss of power, resulting as it did from the failure of a Residual Current Device (RCD) in our fusebox. As I waited for the electrician to arrive I reminisced about the good old days of proper fuseboxes when any problems could be remedied with a bit of fuse-wire (or, failing that, a nail). I then pondered on how many lives had been saved by RCDs and at what cost.
We may never know those figures but it reminded me of some estimates that I had seen of the “Cost per life saved” of various safety regulations in the US. These ranged from $100 000 per life saved by regulating unvented space heaters to $72billion per life saved by a regulation on formaldehyde. Where do RCDs fit in this spectrum?
Whether one is managing extreme risks such as these or mundane day-to-day disruptions; it is important to always ask if the allocation of resources to risk reduction represents good value for money.