The bowtie method is a type of risk analysis that can be used to analyse and communicate how high-risk scenarios may develop. The method provides a visual representation of the potential risks and is particularly useful at highlighting the effectiveness of risk controls. In the bowtie hub we provide information and a good practice guide to explain what these are, how they can be created and used, with cases studies of where they are already in use.
Since the 1990s the bowtie method has gained popularity as a visual tool to capture an overview of risk management practices. It originated in the oil & gas industry and has since expanded to usage in other sectors such as aviation, mining, maritime, chemical, financial, and health care.
The model consists of a specific hazard, circumstance and incident. It shows organisations ways to prevent those scenarios from happening, in other words the barriers or control measures required to manage the risk.
It is used to analyse high-risk scenarios and communicate them to promote discussion and understanding throughout all levels of an organisation, beyond the specialist safety community. The model provides a consistent approach and understanding of risk by different parties, companies, locations, for example at different stations or worksites within an organisation.
The method has several strengths that make it suitable for understanding risk. It:
- provides a structured and systematic way of analysing and understanding hazards
- helps understand the suitability of risk control measures and/or where there are weaknesses
- supports risk-based decision-making to identify the time, money and effort required
- is a useful visual tool for communicating risk management to a wide audience.
The rail industry has used bowties as a risk management tool for several years. However, the method can also be applied to understanding and managing environmental, financial, reputational, business and enterprise risk, and so on.