• Safety First, Safety Second, Safety Third…..

    Safety First, Safety Second, Safety Third…..

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    Bryan Lynch, the CEO of Explorer recently brought some of the introductory wording to amendment 64 of the part 23 regulations to my attention.

    While reading the preamble I did notice that we were mentioned by name (https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2016-30246/p-197) as raising some issues related to the change on legal grounds. Gratifying to see that our comments were at least acknowledged.

    However, the more interesting part of the federal register is this comment


    “The following table shows the estimated benefits and costs of the final rule. Another way to consider the expected net benefit to the society is if the rule saves only one human life by improving stall characteristics and stall warnings, this alone would result in benefits which substantially outweigh the costs.”
    (Emphasis is added)

    Human life is very important. I have one that I really enjoy. Everyone I like, and even people I don’t particularly like have a human life of their own.

    What value do we place on a life? Sometimes lives are cheap. And I am not being political here, but as a society we allow and subsidize abortion and euthanasia. Those lives are so cheap we pay to get rid of them.

    We as a society also make unconscious, and concealed value judgements regarding human lives. Where we have public health care systems, as a society we make a choice. Every penny, dollar or euro we spend on public sector pensions or a politician’s pay and perks is money not spent on cancer treatments or dialysis. When it comes to public sector compensation, lives get much cheaper than we realize.

    People creating public policy have no problem causing additional costs to private industry in order to ‘save lives’. Ask them to take a moderate cut to their pay or benefits to do the same and the answers will range from a simple no to public sector union outrage, strikes and litigation.

    This can also be seen in the actions of the new Biden administration. They cancelled the Keystone pipeline, ostensibly to help reduce the effects of climate change. It may help climate change but it certainly will negatively affect the financial well being of thousands of private citizens and hundreds of private corporations. I expect that measure did not directly harm a single government employee.

    How about we reduce the pay and perks of all public employees by 10% to create a ‘defeat climate change’ fund to take climate action and fund green energy. You know, I get the feeling that this kind of public sector action is never going to happen. Climate action would get a lot less attention if the cost came out of the pockets of public sector employees.

    I am not saying that climate change is not real or that cancelling the pipeline will not mitigate it in some way. I am saying that increasing the safety of society always comes at the direct expense of the private sector and never causes direct financial hardship to the public sector. If climate action were to affect the policy makers and public employees directly I guarantee that another higher priority crisis would be swiftly found that placed the burden on the private sector.

    This is not a cynical interpretation of reality – it is an accurate description of reality.

    Safety increases costs of development, compliance and direct and indirect costs to the consumer. The product costs more and the product takes longer to get to market (delaying potential benefit). The government has to increase oversight to ensure that the new safety rules are being followed so there is an increase in public costs. The public costs are inevitably sourced from taxation of the private individuals and companies.

    The new part 23 regulations are meant to make it easier to certify aircraft. Well, that is great news! If that is the case we should be able to see that reduction in difficulty in a related reduction in oversight cost. Imagine my shock when I could not see the fingerprint of the reduction in oversight cost associate with a reduction in certification difficulty in the FAA budget::


    FAA Budget Graph

    Hmmm. I am joking, of course. No government agency has ever put into place a policy that would justify a reduction of their own budget – that’s crazy talk!

    We can take the response to the recent pandemic as the same precautionary principle, writ large. In the name of safety we are destroying private businesses and lives while being spectacularly unsuccessful at protecting the vulnerable. In Ontario we are failing to prevent COVID outbreaks in long term care homes. As of January the 31st 2021 we have had 3600 deaths in long term care homes in Ontario out of a total of 6200 deaths – that is more than half of all deaths. Long term care residents represent approximately 0.7% of the residents in Ontario. It is not a mystery who is at a massively disproportionate risk – quick! Shut down the entire economy! (well, not the public sector – just the private sector)

    So the safety measures that have harmed millions of people in Ontario and have put over a million people out of work have failed to protect vulnerable people. What price are we paying for our safety?


    I have been trying to find a figure of public employees who have lost their jobs because of this and the best number I can find is in the link above that says that ‘public administration’ lost 13,000 out of over 1,000,000 job losses or 1.2% of all job losses. I expect these are private contractors who were let go from their contracts.

    It appears that we have got to the point where we are willing to pay the cost of private sector survival in order to achieve an ineffective measure of safety.

    What trajectory does this put us on? The safety culture that is slowly being imposed on us is harming innovation and reducing free commercial operation as the ever increasing financial burden of our safety culture is placed solely on the shoulders of private industry. Is it worth it? I wonder how the ever increasing safety culture will affect the eVTOL companies that appear to embrace the new part 23 regulations. Do you think they understand how this works?

    Innovation is never risk free. In the past, society used to accept risk and danger as the cost of progress and government used to let people, innovators and the market trade personal risk for reward.

    So what cost for one human life? It depends….if you are prenatal, wanting to die or a resident in an Ontario long term care home – practically zero. If you are a passenger in an air vehicle, can it ever be high enough?

    Who bears the cost of your safety? The government may, sorry, will inevitably take credit for it, but they never actually pay the cost.