Using BowTieXP to operationalize your barriers or controls

We often see that organizations can be quite adept at performing the first steps in building a better safety culture using BowTieXP software. They start with identifying and defining their barriers and they even find the employees who are accountable for the barrier. These are some great and very necessary first steps to construct a safety management system in the ‘paper world’.

In order to operationalize your bowtie diagram and take the first step to become in control of the ‘real world’, you need to know how the barriers function, how they are inspected, how the procedures are written – and perhaps most importantly – what the activities are of employees involved to make sure the barriers function as intended.

The strength of the BowTieXP software lies in its ability to help organizations do their follow-up in practice. It offers a basic structure for your safety management system (SMS) that enables you to become in control over the ‘real world’.

In this blog post, you will learn to utilize this structure by:

  1. Finding out who is accountable and adding this to your bowtie diagram
  2. Adding activities to your bowtie diagram

Find out who is accountable and add this to your bowtie diagram

The first step in having a functioning safety management system is to find out which employee is accountable for which barrier. Accountable refers to the person who manages the barrier and ensures its effectiveness. How to do this in the software? Follow the next instructions.

We use an example to illustrate this process: an engineer is accountable for the barrier ‘Breath alcohol ignition interlock device’.

  • Double-click on the barrier frame (not the text-field) so that the edit window will pop up.
  • Per default, the tab ‘general’ is selected. Here we can add values for properties such as effectiveness.
  • Click on the drop-down button and select a value for accountable person and perhaps also effectiveness and criticality while you’re here. As an example, under ‘accountable’ select ‘Engineer’.
  • Instead of using the edit screen, you can also drag and drop a value from the treeview (BowTie Lookup Tables > Job Titles > Select a Job Title) onto the bowtie element, via Bowtie Lookup Tables.

Job titles

These are abstractions for people tasked with a certain responsibility. Job titles are used on:

  • Activities, to indicate e.g. the person responsible for the activity and the person who signed off on the activity
  • Barriers and hazards, to indicate the accountable person
  • Hazards, for the sign off information
  • Actions, to indicate the person who has to execute the intended action

Add activities to your bowtie diagram

The second step is to find out which activities must be performed for the barrier to stay healthy and who is responsible for said activities. Activities refer to the doings which are part of the management system and are executed to ensure that the barriers will function as intended when challenged. You can add activities in the software by following the next instructions.

We use an example again to illustrate the process. A Maintenance Manager is responsible for making sure that our barrier ‘Breath alcohol ignition interlock device’ is maintained regularly.

  • Go to your treeview and right-click on the blue node ‘Management Systems’ (image below).
  • Click on ‘new management system’ (image below).
  • Name your management system ‘maintenance’. Other examples: training; inspection; planning or inventory. Instead, you can also choose a name that reflects the name of your organization/plant.
  • Right-click your new management system and click on ‘New activity’.
  • Edit your activity by filling out all applicable fields. In our example, name the activity ‘General vehicle maintenance’ and, under ‘Responsible’ find and select the ‘Maintenance Manager’.
  • Drag and drop the activity onto a barrier.

Displaying activities & accountability on your bowtie

When dragging and dropping, click ‘Yes’ to the pop-up to show e.g. ‘accountable’ or ‘activity’ on the diagram. Missed the pop-up? >

Adjust the way you want to visualize the information on your diagram via the ‘eye icon’ that pops up when you hover over the right-below corner of a barrier. Select the properties that you want to show. ‘S’ stands for short description, ‘L’ for long description.

You can now see who is accountable for the effectivity of your barrier, and who is responsible for any activities linked to your barrier. For instance, in the diagram below, the engineer is accountable for the initial effectiveness of the barrier of ‘Breath alcohol ignition interlock device’ and the ‘Maintenance Manager’ is responsible for making sure the device keeps working as intended.

An excerpt from our test file case. Interested in adjusting all the values yourself? Go to: File > Open the test file > Select BowTie Groups > Road Safety > RS-H-01 Driving a vehicle/losing control over the vehicle.

You have now created a framework that enables you to keep your barriers effective

From an organizational perspective, you have different employees responsible for different tasks. The barrier can touch multiple of these different tasks. By showing both ‘accountable’ and ‘activities’ on your bowtie diagram, you now have a better overview of the multiple people involved in making sure your barrier is and stays effective.

Keep an eye on our blog for future software functionality blog posts to help you get the most out of your software.

Do you have any questions about this workflow in the software? Please contact us.

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