Assessing the Value of Life in a Trenchless Project

By Denise Sullivan
Published: October 7, 2020 | Last updated: July 5, 2023
Key Takeaways

Every project has a risk assessment prior to beginning. Analysis of data provided by suppliers and project managers helps to determine the value of life and if the probability of loss of life is too high.

What constitutes the value of human life? When dealing with trenchless construction and rehabilitation, it is a crucial assessment to consider before beginning. Determining the value of life requires careful planning and calculation of cost based on earnings throughout life.


Before launching into the planning process to determine value of life, ensure you are planning the right project. Our Trenchless Methods Calculator will provide detailed guidance and recommendations, customized to your specific project.

What Is Value of Life?

Strictly speaking, the term “value of life” is the assignment of monetary value for loss of life during a construction project. The work may be construction or rehabilitation. During the planning process, managers and project engineers must ask, “Does the potential for loss of life outweigh the potential profit?”


How Is Value of Life Calculated?

Value of life calculation is a business concept which allows those with a stake in the project to evaluate the cost of competition solely from a financial perspective. There are many different stock formulas in which analysts rely on to determine what the monetary value is. These equations may come from insurance carrier recommendations or predetermined company policy information regarding loss of life.

Some countries have a set statistical life value. In the United States, for example, the estimated standard ranges from $50,000 to $129,000 per year of quality life. Various agencies such as the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency have set figures which encompass lifetime achievement. Of course, these figures diminish as the workers age.

What Is the Process for Determining Value of Life in a Trenchless Project?

Value of life is an essential factor for any trenchless project. Determining the value of the loss of life is a necessary inclusion in any risk management planning. Each of these steps must include potential hazards that could end a worker’s life.

Process Planning

During the planning of a new project, managers begin with the process planning stage. Project managers take the time to frame their assumptions which include any risks possible. During the planning process, there is a time frame assigned, i.e. “as of today” which may not affect the overall project later. They also detail out when specific possible risks may occur and identify causal factors. (Read also: The Planning Process: How to Prepare for a Trenchless Project.)

If the project is planned by multiple agencies, it is vital for each of the managers to share their risk management information during the planning process. Each planning manager needs to integrate the offered information to help design, integrate and test systems support and development.



When identifying risks, managers must cast a wide net. The risk identification process may be one of three main methods: product-based, process-based or scenario-found. Depending on the trenchless project, managers may utilize more than one assessment approach.

In the product-based identification process, consider the system architecture for any red flags. Identify all program relationships using a work breakdown structure. Highlight any potential risks to project or workers.

When using a process-based evaluation, focus on the process which defines the system. Look at the internal organizational process to determine where risk factors lie and what they are.

Finally, using a scenario-based evaluation, managers take input from both customers and suppliers to determine risks. This method requires an understanding of how customers and suppliers utilize the product. In a trenchless project, this risk identification technique focuses on the area and equipment more than the customers serviced by the project.


In risk analysis, planners must determine the likelihood of the identified threat and what consequences it may pose. Included in the study are the estimated probability and consequences of equipment performance and the effect on scheduling, budgetary matters and worker safety. (Read also: Risk Assessment: How AI Fits into Pipeline Maintenance.)

Analysts assign a risk level evaluation to the likelihood and consequence criteria based on risk statements posted. These statements should not be overly general. Instead, they should be focused on a specific threat.

Additionally, reports need to focus on hazards instead of identifying an issue. Comments for analysis need to focus on controllable activities rather than outside forces. Analysis statements are in the form of “if/then” in which the report begins by pointing out a specific cause followed by an exacting consequence.

Once the statement evaluations occur, analysts posit the statistical probability of each risk. The statistical analysis allows the classification of each threat as high, moderate or low.


After analysis of all identified risk factors, it is essential to determine a way to mitigate the possibility of the threats occurring. Any elements that are avoidable should include a plan to eliminate the event. Other instances may be controllable, and workers should respond in a way that reduces the condition to an acceptable level.

Incidents in a trenchless construction job that threaten worker safety include poorly serviced equipment, inadequately trained operators, and negligence. While accidents happen, these risks are avoidable. Equipment inspection ensures that all tools used are in peak operating condition. Operator training mitigates the chance of human error, as does general safety training. (Read also: Trenchless Operations Safety Do’s and Don’ts.)


While the project is underway, constant control of the construction allows managers to determine if the risks have changed. Systematically tracking each of the identified risks give much-needed insight into whether the threat is elevated or diminished since the planning stages. It also offers a chance to retire previously identified risks from the equation.

Monitoring of the project requires regular status updates on any changes to the risk levels. Supervisors must regularly review all threats and alert management of adjustments implemented in the field. Even if after retiring a danger, monitors must periodically revisit these issues to ensure situations that may cause them to have not resurfaced.


Value of life is not a subject taken lightly. It is an important variable which managers must consider during their planning phase. Mitigation of potential risks is necessary to ensure safe completion of a project.

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Written by Denise Sullivan | Technical Writer @ Trenchlesspedia

Denise Sullivan

Denise Sullivan is an accomplished freelance writer from Louisiana, with a Associate's Degree in Journalism from Eastern Oklahoma State College. She also graduated from East Central University with a Bachelor's in Biology. Denise began her writing career writing operations and maintenance manuals and software utility manuals for flight simulators. Since, she has expanded her writing to a broad spectrum of topics.

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