The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics conducts a census of fatal occupational injuries each year. In his featured article in the October 2013 edition of the Monthly Labor Review, “Using Data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries to Estimate the ‘Value of a Statistical Life,’” Vanderbilt economist W. Kip Viscusi explains how the availability of more accurate fatality rate estimates has enabled researchers to generate more accurate estimates of the “value of a statistical life.”
Viscusi defines the “value of a statistical life” as the additional pay workers receive for bearing greater job-related risks, controlling for other aspects of the job. “This tradeoff rate, which has come to be known as the value of a statistical life (VSL), equals the extra amount of wages workers require per expected workplace fatality,” Viscusi explains. These estimates are used by federal agencies to determine the stringency of health, safety and environmental regulations.