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A management accounting perspective on safety

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-159
Number of pages9
JournalSafety Science
Issue numberJanuary
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


Management accounting supports decision making in organisations by providing managers with relevant information and analysis on the performance, costs, and benefits of a certain operation. For safety-related issues, cost-based calculations dominate practice, and typical measures include cost per injury or the total cost of accidents. Monetary information is needed to guide safety-related decision-making. Besides focusing on financial information, management accounting should also focus on non-financial information, such as safety improvement, strategic safety objectives and employee relations. In safety-related investments, the monetary costs of an investment are usually well known, but the monetary value of the benefits is hard to calculate. Thus, there is a need for cost-benefit evaluation methods, including the non-financial benefits and value created though preventing accidents. In addition to calculating the safety investment costs, the efficiency of the improvements, such as productivity improvements, quality and the value of safety goodwill, should be evaluated as well. The objective of this paper is to chart current management accounting practices related to safety issues on the basis of findings from relevant literature. Moreover, we discuss the applicability of certain management accounting methods for safety-related decision-making and how these can be used to improve current practices further. The relevant methods include the Balanced Scorecard approach, the payback period, the simple rate of return, and the benefit-to-cost ratio. They all offer means of calculating the cost and benefits of safety if the basic problems of uncertainty, valuation, perimeter of analysis, and quantification of costs and benefits are perceived. Valuing human life in cost-benefit analyses is also discussed.

Publication forum classification

Field of science, Statistics Finland