Generative HSE
Safety beliefs, standards, leadership & performance


Beware the Lopsided Bowtie

Critical Risk is beginning to make its way into organisations’ Risk Management System thinking and practices. As a relatively new concept, there a few things that need to be given careful consideration particularly the right side of the bowtie, more commonly referred to as Mitigating Controls. Most bowties are heavily loaded with left hand side Preventative Controls but few Mitigating Controls.  The bowtie analysis then quickly becomes quite lopsided with an over emphasis on prevention only of the unwanted event. This is further compounded by most of the  Mitigating Controls clustering around things like emergency response and evacuation etc but after the event these do very little to prevent serious injury and fatality. In part this is based on a misplaced confidence that all serious unwanted events can be 100% prevented and hereby there is no need to ensure organisations “fail safely”.

It is encouraging to see many organisations demonstrating greater risk mindfulness and organisational maturity by investing the time, money and resources into implementing a Critical Risk Management System. We are increasingly more aware of the importance of separating the low probability extreme consequence events from other risk events, in line with this thinking we need to develop a mindset of no matter how well we plan our work, things can still go wrong.

Think of a Critical Risk Bowie analysis and each control listed on the bowtie in the same way you approach a budget. Let's say on your bowtie each Critical control is worth $20 and you have a starting budget of $100. If you have five Critical Controls and they are all on the left hand side of your bowtie, when an unwanted event occurs you have no investment on the right hand side and are leaving yourself exposed a serious injury or worse a fatality. Remember the saying “you need to have something in the bank to cover a rainy day” the same principle applies to Critical Risk Management and the mitigation of an unwanted event.

As designers of Critical Risk Management Systems we know that even when work is well planned, there is still the potential for things to go wrong. We need to also invest in ensuring we can “fail safely” where an incident occurs and no one is injured.

Please call us on 02 9098 5081 if you would like to talk to us about how Generative HSE can help you manage safety risk in your organisation. You may also visit the Risk Management page on our website for more information.