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3 Tips to Maximize Bowtie Risk Management

ABS Group Safety, Risk and Compliance Services

THESIS Bowtie Risk Management Software

The Bowtie Method is unsurpassed in providing insights into the barriers used to prevent and mitigate an undesired event, excelling as a tool for communicating a risk picture in an efficient, visual and easy-to-grasp format. However, there are some weaknesses associated with bowties which, if recognized, can be successfully addressed.

To facilitate the most effective use of bowties, we have listed three (3) tips for avoiding some of the more common mistakes when developing them. The goal is to help your facility improve its overall hazard risk management.

A Risk Based Process for Maximizing Bowties

Threats to assets and operations can range from safety related hazards in industrial settings to security, business, health and environmental hazards that affect the public sector. In any case, a risk based approach to understanding a range of threats that could adversely impact your business' financial or public reputation is critical to managing risk across the enterprise. Software that is designed to demonstrate and communicate potential threats to a company should also be applied with careful consideration of the barriers put in place that protect against such weaknesses. The following recommendations describe a proactive bowtie approach for visualizing risk while also encouraging risk managers to take practical steps to maximize the effectiveness of their bowties.

1. Integrate bowties with qualitative hazard identification techniques.

The Bowtie Method works best as a complementary tool that takes the output from other qualitative hazard identification techniques, such as HAZID, HAZOP and/or FMEA, and enhances the data by providing a thorough view of the risk picture for each undesired event. The goal is to analyze all of the elements integral to generating a comprehensive risk assessment using systematic risk assessments that provide a clear understanding of hazards. 

2. Design simple, easy-to-visualize bowties for complex systems.

Bowties are often used to communicate complex systems or processes with many inputs, outputs, threats and consequences. Complex systems have heavier use of prevention and mitigation barriers which, combined with their respective degradation factors and degradation factor controls, promote detailed, complex and busy-looking bowties. One of the Bowtie Method's main appeals is its easy-to-grasp visuals; complex systems should be broken down into smaller more manageable sections. Ten small and concise bowties are more effective as a risk communication tool than one large one.

3. Keep information concise and qualitative.

Bowties are best kept qualitative. Although a logical chain of events is visualized in the Bowtie Method, the simplicity of the diagram can suffer if populated with probabilities and frequencies. This quantitative information, however, can still be added, such as in downstream applications.

A Software Solution for Effective Risk Management

ABS Group has accumulated knowledge from over 45 years of safety and risk management, not only providing the original bowtie software, THESIS BowTie™ Risk Management, but also applying the methodology internally for developing processes for Management of Change procedures, business continuity plans and multiple risk assessments, among others. Our engineers can advise on how to maximize the potential of this methodology and how to tackle its weaknesses.

Learn more about our THESIS BowTie Risk Management software or read a project profile describing how we helped a British multinational automotive and aerospace systems engineering company implement our bowtie software and training solution across its global sites to reduce workplace safety hazards.

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