Visualising HACCP with BowTie barrier risk management - part 1

What is bowtie method and why this risk assessment tool should be used by any business involved in the food and drink industry - Visualising HACCP with BowTie barrier risk management - video part 1. Find out more about out Bowtie services here.


Andrew Collins: “Welcome to our presentation of the visualisation of HACCP with barrier risk Management. My name is Andrew Collins from Campden BRI and, I am here with Alistair Cowin from CGE Risk, who are our partners in developing that approach for the food industry.”

Alistair Cowin: “I am Alistair Cowin, I am not a food safety engineer, but have a general safety engineer background in aviation. I am very passionate about barrier risk thinking and I have been supporting Andrew in this journey.”

Andrew Collins: “In the food industry, we use HACCP as our risk management tool. Within this approach, it is about understanding what we do, but also being able to answer three questions. First, what can go wrong? Second, what systems do we have in place to prevent this from happening? and the third and most important one, what information do I have which can assure me that the system is working effectively?

Campden BRI has been looking at what other industries are successfully doing in risk management and one of them is the visualisation of HAZOP using a risk management tool called the Bowtie. I immediately thought that this could be applied in the food industry.

So, throughout our three video talks, we will be looking at barrier risk management and applying Bowtie in the food industry.

Alistair, why do we start our presentation with a picture of the statistician George Box?”

Alistair Cowin: “George Box said, “All the models are false, but some are useful” but also “How wrong the model needs to be, to not be useful?”. I thought that two quotes were the perfect introduction to the Bowtie model.

Yes, we can’t model everything and, yes, we can’t be extremely detailed, but with the Bowtie model, we are not trying to create a model of perfection, we just want it to provide enough to be able to answer the three questions you have just posed.”

Andrew Collins: “That leads us directly to that quote” (on the video slide)

Alistair Cowin: “Absolutely, the level of detail depends on the goal, and the goal in the food industry is quite clear, producing safe food. The model we propose with Bowtie is not about over-simplifying, but it is about bringing all the data that you have together.

The issue is that these days we are data rich, so people typically start by trying to answer that third question, what information do we have. The Bowtie provides you a solid framework for you to hang your data on. It means that if I build the right model, with the right level of details, I will have the right place to hang on all my data and information and allow me to make a very clear statement on how well we are performing.

Andrew Collins: “And where does Bowtie come from? We know that HACCP was developed by NASA in the 60’s to make sure the food was safe for astronauts, that Codex was developed with Good Hygienic Practises, that Campden BRI has had some guidance for a number of years, and we also have voluntary standards. All of them to meet the legal requirements of having a HACCP system in place or HACCP based system. So, what is the history of Bowtie?”

Alistair Cowin: “Bowtie first appeared in the mid-70’s, at The University of Queensland in Australia as an extrapolation of the fault and event trees. However, the real trigger was the catastrophic incident on the Shell Piper Alpha platform in 1988. Reports concluded that there were too little understanding of the hazards and their accompanying risks. The urge rose to gain more insight in the causality of seemingly independent events and conditions by developing a systematic way of assuring control over the hazards. It was the birth of the Bowtie model and BowtieXP, a CGE product, which has since evolved.”

Andrew Collins: “What spark my interest about Bowtie was how it helps communicating not only, what the hazard is but, how you can deal with it.

So, Alistair, could you please take us through the diagram and, explain to us why it looks like a Bowtie?”

Alistair Cowin: “First, I would like to underline that it does not replace the need for doing the investigation work, the Bowtie is about the visualisation.

It has a bowtie shape, with the hazard in the middle and an extra feature, called the top event.

When you manage risks, the key thing is to understand when you lose control, therefore, the Bowtie diagram is split in two. On the right-hand side, we have in the red boxes the consequences and, in the blue boxes, on the left-hand side, the threats, those things that will make me lose control and will have negative repercussions. To prevent those accidents from happening, we put in place barriers. On the left-hand side, there are the preventive ones, to stop me losing control or, if we accept that we might lose control; on the right-hand side, there are the recovery barriers. Then, in yellow boxes on the bottom row of each side, there are the escalation or degradation factors which cause the barriers to fail. We can also put control barriers against them.

As you can see, it is a very nuanced diagram of preventing the situation going wrong or recovering it, and a way to understand where to channel the focus.”

Andrew Collins: “We will be looking at the details of it in our second part video. Let’s talk about one of the promotors of this concept, James Reason.

Alistair Cowin: “He came up with the Swiss cheese slice model. The idea behind it is that none of the barriers are perfect, they all got holes in them and, if those holes line up, it would give the hazard a straight line through to the business loss.

This concept aligned with the way we build the Bowtie, with the holes being the escalation factors.

Andrew Collins: “It is also important to understand what could make the holes in the Swiss Cheese larger, and how we can address them as in the new Codex, one of revised General Principles of Food Hygiene is about the commitment of management to establish and, maintain a positive food safety culture.

I mentioned earlier that Campden BRI looks at what other industries successfully do, so Alistair, where else is the Bowtie model used?”

Alistair Cowin: “I mentioned previously that it was born out of the oil and gas industry but it’s very popular in the aviation, energy, chemical, mining, pharmaceutical and so on. It is used in all industries were there is a high hazard situation but now businesses from any industry are using it to manage risks. Even insurance companies are using it to understand if their assessments are correct.”

Andrew Collins: “A lot of industries use risk management tools such as ISO and, here (see slide on video) is an illustration of ISO 31000. It talks about setting the scope and context which, in the food industry would be HACCP. Its centre box is about risks identification or risk analysis, in HACCP we would talk about HACCP identification and HACCP analysis. So, in some respect, the terms used for ISO 31000 and HACCP are synonymous with each other.

ISO 31000 also looks at monitoring, which is Principles 4 of HACCP, review which is Principles 6, recording which is Principles 7, risk treatment which is part of principle 1 of HACCP. Again, there are a lot of overlaps and common language between different risk management tools used by different industries.

Alistair Cowin: “And all these models link to the same thing, managing the risk.”

Andrew Collins: “One of the big strengths about that model is communication. It is important because you can’t have good culture without effective communication, and you can’t have effective communication without good culture.

Alistair Cowin: “You can easily overlay the various elements of the Bowtie into that ISO model. The risk analysis is to identify the hazard which with the Bowtie model, I can analyse, I can understand where the threats come in and their consequences and my risk treatments are the barriers.

Bowtie is a visual model, and as we say, “a picture paints a thousand words”, it is a very powerful in helping to communicate the issues and, the importance of the barriers. It gives the framework to hang the data to be used for my monitoring and reviews.

Andrew Collins: “And what are its goals?”

Alistair Cowin: “You might already have the element to analyse the hazard in paper documents, but Bowtie provides the visual structure to analyse it. Its layout allows you to identify where there are holes, where there are not enough barriers and where there is shortfall. It helps focus on where you have problems and consequently supports the decision-making process on where resources should be allocated.

Andrew Collins: “So, it allows you to move away from the tabulated format which requires a level of competency to pick up the information but also, not a very good tool to communicate to people who might not have that level of competency. As you said earlier, a picture paints a thousand words and Bowtie provide the comprehensive view of hazards management.”

Alistair Cowin: “However, you still have to do the work, you still need to have people who understand the system but, with Bowtie you have the medium to transmit the information anywhere in the business, from the shop floor all the way through the board. By understanding and owning things, it gives people ownership and, helps improve the culture of the organisation.”

Andrew Collins: “Thank you very much Alistair. This marks the end of our first session, and I look forward to seeing you in the part two to look at the Bowtie model in a lot more detail.

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