One of the guidelines we use when creating bowties is to describe the consequences as events, rather than damage. However, we see that many bowtie-creators struggle with the description of a consequence. In this blog, we explain how to describe consequences in the bowtie.

Describing your consequences

A common approach is that the bowtie-creator defines a total of four consequences for the top event: Injury/fatalities, asset damage, environmental damage, and reputation damage. Most likely, all hazards involve the above four in some way and one could simply copy and paste them into every bowtie without adding a lot of understanding about its subject. Instead, we want to know how we got to that generic loss or damage.

When the consequence is described as damage like in the examples above, it is hard to define specific barriers to prevent or mitigate the damage. If we describe the consequence as an event (usually the actual incident/accident), we are able to define scenario specific barriers. For example:

Losing control of a vehicle can result in injury/fatality, asset damage, environmental damage and reputation damage. Instead of describing the consequences as damage, we described the consequences as events (like in the picture below).

Benefits of defining consequences as events

Even when we describe the consequences as events, we can still assess the damages. If we look at the consequences, we see that they have different risk matrix values for people, assets, environment and reputation. The consequence ‘Crash into other vehicle or motionless object’ is likely to result in severe asset damage, but also potentially in severe injuries or fatalities.

If we look specifically to the people risk matrix values in the picture above, we see that both consequences ‘Hitting pedestrian/cyclist’ and ‘Crash into deep water resulting in entrapment’ have an intolerable risk value. The advantage of splitting the consequences into two events with both intolerable risk for people is that these events need different barriers in order to prevent or mitigate the consequence. Would we be able to come up with the barrier ‘Competence in confined space/water rescue’ if the consequence was injury/fatality?

Curious to know how this can be visualized into BowTieXP? We are more than happy to help you with this. Please contact