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Using the Risk Bowtie as an EHS Tool to View Operational Risks during the Pandemic

Sustain your focus on Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) risk during significant disruptive events to the workplace.

The impact COVID-19 will have on society and businesses is yet to be fully understood, but it has surfaced a stark reminder that environmental, health and safety (EHS) risks can threaten the resilience and sustainability of businesses, and the workplace needs to be managed holistically.

The magnitude of the event is dwarfing other risks that would have previously been (but should continue to be) a routine focus for organizational reporting and discussion. The resulting or perceived drop in priority for risks not linked to COVID-19 may threaten the effectiveness of your broader risk controls, either because organizations have resource constraints due to the need apply controls to limit the impact of COVID-19, or due to a lack of bandwidth and focus at senior levels of an organization on anything other than pandemic response.

Using the Risk Bowtie for Operational Oversight

Our graphical Risk Bowtie tool in SAI360 software provides a structured visual methodology for managing risks by breaking them down into a series of threats and controls (preventative and mitigating) associated with a risk event.

If you already use bowtie methodology within your organization, you could update your bowties to include COVID-19 as a threat to understand how it impacts your existing operational risks.

For example, the following simplified bowtie for “Falls from Height” shows how existing controls – such as holding handrails when walking up and down stairs or maintaining three points of contact when using ladders – are weakened by conflicting messages to minimize hand contact with hard surfaces to reduce the risk coronavirus transmission.

Risk Bowtie


Applying the bowtie risk methodology can help to:

  • Anchor focus on risk management, and particularly critical controls, during disruptive events
  • Identify unintended consequences where controls potentially conflict with each other and may result in confusion at an operational worker level
  • Provide objective reporting to help prioritize actions and prevent blind-spots
  • Engage workers in risk management discussions and increase focus on the reality of control implementation and effectiveness


More insights on using our EHS technology.