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ComplianceESGMay 11, 2023

A crucial crossroad at railway & transportation risk management – A closer look at identifying hazards

For the past decades, the transportation sector has been opting for a new paradigm to address risk management.

It was argued that such a paradigm should at least 1) more explicitly consider the securing threats and vulnerabilities, as well as 2) integrate such securing considerations into an overall framework of addressing both natural and man-made disasters, albeit accidental or planned. In the aviation industry there was a similar need for a standardized paradigm, and thus the Civil Aviation Authority created a set of risks that addressed their major accident scenarios (known as ‘The Significant 7’), that were all captured using the bowtie risk analysis method. Though the railway and transportation sector could benefit from such a standardized paradigm, there is not one common denominator to analyze and, subsequently, deal with risks.

In this article you will learn how one crucial element of a well-known risk analysis method could be a game changer for how the railway and transportation sector are targeting their risks: the central knot of the bowtie, according to the bowtie method – the so-called Top Event.

Unity in events

Regardless of the transportation and railway sector not having one standardized framework to assess and address certain risks yet, these industries do have commonalities when it comes to the risks that they deal with. Driver shortages resulting in lacking qualifications, deteriorating infrastructure resulting in (devastating) accidents and/or delays, adverse weather conditions that result in deterioration, and trying to fence off cyber-attacks on a variety of (risk) software/hardware, are some examples that most organizations are confronted with on a regular basis. Reading this short enumeration, you can already sense that causes, effects, and outcomes are intertwined and overlap. So where to begin and what is what?

Identifying ‘hazards’ is a start. But what if you do not have a proper definition of what a hazard is in the first place? In actual examples of railway hazard logs of past prospects (now current clients), we identified a mixture of happenings all being registered as ‘hazards’. Adhering to bowtie element guidelines, some could be mapped as threats, others were consequences, while others could indeed be classified as hazards.

The sweet spot

How come we feel so strongly about splitting hairs in defining events on registers? It all has to do with the subsequent analysis of a hazard log. If you would categorize every event as a ‘hazard’ without categorizing and tying it to a specific function within a context, you would regard and approach every log in similar fashion. This forces an organization to always respond in a reactive way: something happened, and we should do something about ‘it’ to prevent ‘it’ the next time. What if something similar happens next time, but then slightly different? Will you wait for all possible scenarios to happen or is there a way to be ahead of the game?

What if you could identify an acceptable margin of events and pin down at what point the situation turns into an unacceptable range? And, moreover, what if you could steer the situation into something acceptable again, after this threshold has been crossed? This is exactly the purpose of identifying the ‘Top Event’ for a potentially hazardous situation. Acting before this Top Event is reached, will make you more pro-active, safer, and in the end more cost efficient.

Navigating new worlds

To have a more structured approach in the analysis of (potential) risk-related scenarios, determine what safety measures to take thereafter, implement and further invest in them. Having identified the Top Event, you can focus more prominently on preventing and de-escalating. Henceforth you are busy securing threats and vulnerabilities, rather than putting out fires. Not having a structured framework such as bowtie analysis, will keep you in the dark in regarding realistic risk scenarios.

Why not shine a light straight through this tunnel, for any given hazardous situation? Don’t let it come to an abnormal and unwanted halt. Regain control instead of losing it.

Learn more about the top event of the bowtie method in this video: the bowtie method in 5 minutes.

© CGE Risk. 2021-2023 – The copyright of the content of this article belongs to CGE Risk Management Solutions B.V.

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