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Bow-Tie Analysis


Bow Tie Analysis : Assessing Barriers for the Prevention and Mitigation of Incident Pathways

Bow-tie analysis focuses on assessing and visualizing barriers for the prevention and mitigation of incident pathways, primarily in the field of risk management and process safety. Its main purpose is to understand the different scenarios that could lead to a particular incident and assess the preventive and mitigative measures that can be put in place to minimize the impact.

The analysis uses a bow tie diagram, where the event or incident is positioned in the middle of the diagram, and the causes (left side) and consequences (right side) are identified and analyzed, along with the corresponding barriers and degradation controls in place to mitigate the risk.

Bow-tie diagrams can assist with:

  • Barrier management
  • Analysis of risk reduction
  • Assessment of barriers in place

Bow tie analysis is commonly used by risk managers, safety professionals, and stakeholders in industries where there are potential risks and hazards, including but not limited to:

  • Oil and gas industry: to analyze risks associated with offshore drilling, oil refining, transportation, and storage

  • Chemical industry: to assess risks involving hazardous substances and processes

  • Aviation industry: to evaluate risks in aviation operations, such as flight safety and maintenance

  • Healthcare industry: to identify and manage risks in patient safety and clinical processes

  • Construction industry: to analyze risks related to construction projects and ensure safety on-site

  • Manufacturing industry: to assess risks in product development, production processes, and supply chains


However, bow tie analysis can be applied in any industry or organization where there is a need to better understand and manage risks associated with specific events or incidents.

What are the advantages of a Bow-Tie Analysis?

There are several advantages of using a bow tie analysis:

  • Visual representation: The use of a bow tie diagram provides a clear and concise visual representation of the event, causes, consequences, and risk control measures. This helps in better understanding and communication of the analysis to stakeholders.

  • Comprehensive risk identification: Bow-tie analysis encourages thorough identification of all potential causes and consequences related to the event or incident. This comprehensive approach helps in identifying risks that might have been overlooked in a traditional risk assessment.

  • Proactive risk management: The analysis enables organizations to take a proactive approach to risk management. By identifying preventive and mitigative barriers, organizations can implement risk controls to reduce the likelihood of the event occurring or minimize its impact if it does occur.

  • Root cause analysis: Bow tie analysis focuses on understanding the root causes of an event or incident. By understanding the underlying causes, organizations can address the fundamental issues rather than just treating the symptoms. This helps in developing more effective risk control measures.

  • Decision-making and resource allocation: The analysis provides insights into the relationship between causes, consequences, and risk controls. This helps organizations make informed decisions and allocate resources efficiently by prioritizing the most critical risks and control measures.

  • Continuous improvement: Bow tie analysis can be an iterative process, allowing organizations to continuously review and refine their risk controls based on new insights and lessons learned. This helps in fostering a culture of continuous improvement and proactive risk management.

The steps to conduct a Bow-Tie Analysis typically include:

  1. Identify the event or incident: Clearly define the event or incident that you want to analyze and manage. This could be a potential risk, an accident, a hazardous event, or any situation that could impact the organization.

  1. Identify the causes: Identify all the possible causes and factors that can lead to the occurrence of the event or incident. This involves conducting a thorough analysis of the potential hazards and understanding the root causes.

  1. Identify the consequences: Identify all the possible consequences that could arise if the event or incident occurs. This includes direct consequences as well as secondary or cascading effects that can arise from the occurrence.

  1. Construct the bow tie diagram: Create a visual representation of the analysis using a bow tie diagram. The diagram consists of a central event or incident that branches out into causes on one side and consequences on the other side. This helps to illustrate the relationship between causes, consequences, and mitigation measures.

  1. Identify preventive barriers (left-hand side): Identify the preventive controls or barriers that can be put in place to reduce or eliminate the causes of the event or incident. These measures aim to prevent the occurrence or escalation of the event.

  1. Identify mitigative barriers (right-hand side): Identify the mitigative controls or barriers that can be put in place to reduce or mitigate the consequences of the event or incident. These measures aim to minimize the impact should the event or incident occur.

  1. Assess the effectiveness of barriers: Evaluate the effectiveness of the preventive and mitigative barriers. This involves analyzing the existing safety measures, procedures, and systems in place to determine their adequacy and effectiveness.

  1. Implement and monitor control measures: Implement the recommended preventive and mitigative measures based on the analysis. Continuously monitor and update these measures to ensure their effectiveness and adapt to changing needs or conditions.

With decades of experience in managing combustible dust hazards, flammable solvents, and gases, our engineers will partner with you to identify, assess, and implement control measures in your new or existing facility.

How can Sigma-HSE support you with your Bow-Tie Analysis?

Our expert consultants perform a thorough Bow-Tie Analysis, enabling you to strengthen your risk management practices and enhance overall safety and control measures. Sigma-HSE can assist you in identifying the areas in new and existing facilities where flammable atmospheres and combustible dust can be found and guide you through the complexities of the Bow-Tie Analysis.

By implementing best practices, our actionable insights determine what practicable control measures and recommendations should be made for your company to optimize safety and reduce the level of risk to your people, your business, and the environment.

The Sigma-HSE Advantage

Sigma-HSE has the required resources, knowledge, and experience to conduct a comprehensive Bow-Tie Analysis and recommend safe, pragmatic, and cost-effective solutions for analyzing and visualizing the potential causes and consequences of a specific event or major incident.

 At Sigma-HSE, we can assist you in identifying the areas in a facility where flammable atmospheres and combustible dust can be found in both new and existing facilities to examine the potential major accidents and put in place the appropriate barriers and risk remediation.

If you find yourself asking, ‘Do I need a Bow-Tie Analysis?’, connect with us today.  Our experts can answer any preliminary questions you may have.

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