BowTie Methodology Basics

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BowTieXP - World Leading Risk Assessment SoftwareWhat is a BowTie?
A BowTie is a diagram that visualizes the risk you are dealing with in just one, easy to understand picture. The diagram has the shape of a bow tie, creating a clear differentiation between proactive and reactive risk management. The power of the BowTieXP diagram is that it gives you an overview of multiple plausible scenarios. In short, it provides a simple, visual explanation of a risk that would be much more difficult to explain otherwise.

What does a BowTie emphasize?

  • A concise, visual depiction of risk
  • An increased awareness and understanding of the safety risks
  • The best guidance material for safety risk management at operational and regulatory level
  • Critical risk controls and an assessment of their effectiveness

Which are the BowTie elements?

The bowtie model  consists of several elements:

  • Hazard – the potential to cause harm or damage to your organization
  • Top event – the loss of control on the hazard
  • Threats – direct causes linking to the top event
  • Consequences – results of the top event on the operations
  • Barriers  – activities, procedures or people

BowTie users

Many industries benefit from the versatility and the structured approach of the bowtie method, as risk is inherent to all operations. Initially applied in the petrochemical sector, nowadays we find bowties extremely useful in the aviation and aerospace industries, as well as rail, defence, energy and pharmaceuticals. The bowtie approach applies to all types of organizations:

  • Governmental bodies
  • Commercial entities
  • Research Institutes
  • State-owned administrations 

BowTie Video Demo

Our partners have made a short and informative video on the use of BowTieXP:

BowTieXP Workshops

The Aloft Group facilitates BowTieXP workshops and webinars to develop the risk model you need for your organization. We employ top Subject Matter Experts from across the aviation industry in fruitful and concise workshops focused on risk identification and tailored safety risk modelling. Follow the Risk Management Training page to get the latest update on the bowtie workshops that The Aloft Group offers.

Visualize your Safety Management System on BowTieXP

BowTieXP is a next generation risk assessment tool that uses the Bowtie method to assess risks. You can build entire Safety Management Systems rooted in a BowTie risk analysis. By using the bowtie method,  each activity is traced back to the reasons that generated it.

BowTie barriers

The BowTie methodology uses barriers as key indicators for the preventive and recovery phase of a hazard. In addition, escalation factors ( not sure about this one) are added to simulate real operational complexity. By employing barriers, the user obtains a clear picture and can link each actor to its critical role in the complex organisational structure. Therefore, risk management becomes simple, tangible and controlled activity for both short and long term, as bowties can be stored and compared over time. This will further allow to monitor the evolution of your organisation and be cost efficient on all levels, due to the diversity of barriers types. These are:

  1. Procedural
  2. Technical 
  3. Human
  4. Operational

The SMS exists primarily to identify safety critical activities undertaken to assure the on-going integrity of risk barriers. However, it can sometimes provide too much unstructured information, hence organising it using the BowTie method provides a clear picture. Everyone can see the risk context in the BowTie, together with the afferent activities.

Proper BowTie content

The models we build are only as good as the data we use them with. BowTieXP presents the information in a structured manner, but experience has shown that involving other parties in developing the model leads to more consistent and applicable risk models. This happens best in the environment of a facilitated workshop with Subject Matter Experts having diverse backgrounds. It is of paramount importance to get a hollistic view on the model, as real-life operations are complex and need a systematic approach when converted to a barrier risk model as the bowtie. 

The Aloft Group is leading the CARM (Common Aviation Risk Models) initiative. Together with a broad consortium of key figures in the aviation industry, the Aloft Group is developing a set of bowtie models to ensure that you:

  • Get the complete risk picture
  • Have access to the latest risk knowledge
  • Understand the roles of stakeholders in mitigating the shared risks
  • Identify potential risk transfer between actors
  • Emphasise key actions with greatest impact

A bowtie facilitator can easily streamline the process and ensure all knowledge is properly integrated in the risk model. 

BowTie advantages

The ease of understanding is one of the most convincing arguments for the BowTieXP. People instantly understand the risk analysis because it is on the right abstraction level. To distribute the BowTie, organisations are using posters, pocket books and leaflets to highlight key risk control issues. Web-based BowTies are also increasingly a part of on-line training and information systems. These make sure your organisation integrates risk communication. Moreover, it provides the best way to digitally store and structure complex operations information. In this way, staff at different operational levels in aviation or other complex socio-technical industry can easily understand the entire operation. This leads to optimal risk management, better prevention and an increased trust in the SMS.

Among the practical uses of the BowTie, we emphasise the formal demonstration of risk management throughout your organization. BowTies highlight critical roles and ensure alignment of staff competence and control requirements. The BowTie approach can also focus on procedures at different aggregation levels and ensures that the entire organization is consistently aligned with its safety and risk targets. The BowTie method streamlines communication in an organisation. Throughout our experience, we find over and over again that in risk communication, a picture does paint a thousand words.

A BowTie can also be used to demonstrate that risks are being controlled. This provides management with the assurance that risks are being properly managed. Moreover, this  was the primary driver for the implementation of the approach within Shell from the mid-1990s. BowTies have been used successfully in formal safety reports produced for compliance with the European onshore chemical industry Seveso II Directive.