Episode Summary

On today’s episode of Safety of Work, we discuss whether parachutes prevent injuries and deaths.

Episode Notes

Given that the last two episodes were about theories, we wanted to get back to something more concrete in nature. Hence, the topic of parachutes. We find they are often used in military operations, but are rarely required for civilian aviation. Let’s look at this discrepancy and discuss whether parachutes are actually used to prevent injury or death.

Join us for this interesting and somewhat surprising discussion.


  • Are parachutes for life-risking activities or a life-saving tool?
  • Measuring the usefulness of parachutes.
  • The arguments against evidence-based medicine.
  • When and why you only need a small sample size.
  • Why it’s hard to design an experiment to translate to real-world results.
  • Why we need more experiments on events with direct causal mechanisms.
  • Practical takeaways.


“…They hide a few key considerations. One of the big ones is, that it’s not really a choice between at the point you have to jump out of a plane, whether to wear a parachute or not; it’s things like, do we make laws that all planes should carry parachutes just in case?”

“So it’s not just that more research is needed, it’s that more research is almost guaranteed to reverse the result of this bad study.”

“Very often, when it’s come to the practicality of how do we investigate this within an organization, we’ve decided that an experiment is not the best use of our time and resources.”


Smith, G. C., & Pell, J. P. (2003).Parachute Use to Prevent Death and Major Trauma Related to Gravitational Challenge systematic review of randomised controlled trials. Bmj327(7429), 1459-1461.

Czorlich, P., Burkhardt, T., Buhk, J. H., Matschke, J., Dreimann, M., Schmidt, N. O., & Eicker, S. O. (2016). Does Usage of a Parachute in Contrast to Free Fall Prevent Major Trauma?  a prospective randomised-controlled trial in rag dolls. European spine journal25(5), 1349-1354.

Yeh, R. W., Valsdottir, L. R., Yeh, M. W., Shen, C., Kramer, D. B., Strom, J. B., … & Nallamothu, B. K. (2018). Parachute use to prevent death and major trauma when jumping from aircraft: randomized controlled trial Parachute Use to Prevent Death and Major Trauma When Jumping From Aircraft bmj363.