Managing COVID-19 (and other Coronavirus epidemics) Through the Use of the Bowtie Risk Analysis Technique

The term Coronavirus (or “Crown” virus, from its shape and form) refers to a genus of virus that is pervasive throughout the animal kingdom. It comes in an entire family of strains that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

Coronaviruses can pass between animals and people, a characteristic known by the technical term “zoonotic”. The source of the SARS-CoV was civet cats, openly sold in markets in parts of China, while the MERS-CoV came from camels. Other strains of coronaviruses have been identified in animals that have not yet infected humans.

Common symptoms of infection include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

The Pandemic

The highly contagious and deadly COVID-19 Coronavirus epidemic travelled from its Wuhan, China, epicenter to 164 countries around the world in just a little over two months, infecting hundreds of thousands of people with the death toll in the thousands. To contain the outbreaks, governments everywhere have resorted to such draconian measures as locking down their borders and shutting down large parts of their economies.

The Bowtie Technique

The Bowtie technique is a risk analysis tool used for analysing and communicating how high risk scenarios develop. The essence of the Bowtie consists of plausible risk scenarios around a certain hazard, and ways in which the organisation stops those scenarios from happening. The method takes its name from the shape of the diagram that you create, which looks like a men’s bowtie. The Bowtie technique is based on the modern concept of barrier management.

Bowtie covid-19 coronavirus

The Bowtie methodology has several goals:

  • It provides a structure to systematically analyse a hazard.
  • It helps make a decision whether the current levels of control is sufficient (or, for those who are familiar with the concept, whether risks are As Low As Reasonably Practicable or ALARP).
  • It helps to identify where and how investing resources would have the greatest impact.
  • It increases risk communication and awareness.

The Bowtie technique is currently widely used in such diverse sectors as oil and gas, chemical process, power generation, mining, aviation/aerospace, healthcare, manufacturing, IT security, finance and government.

The COVID-19 Coronavirus Bowtie Model

Although there is no vaccine currently available for those stricken by the COVID-19 Coronavirus, governments and international agencies are working round the clock on R&D based on a wealth of data from previous Coronavirus epidemics. Standard personal care and hygiene recommendations have been put forward by the CDC and the WHO to help contain the spread of COVID-19 infections.

Taking the cue from the CDC and the WHO recommendations, the latest government actions and administrative and medical measures, Pace Up consultants have mapped out a Bowtie model to help visualize, at a high level, the current risk scenario, as seen from a typical organization affected by the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak:


Bowtie covid-19 coronavirus full


Unlike the conventional spreadsheet-based hazard or risk register, the diagram shows very clearly the mechanisms of unwanted events and all the inter-relationships between the elements of the risk scenario. Furthermore, the adequacy of barriers (control and mitigation measures) could be easily determined.

The diagram is populated with the normal Bowtie entities only, serving as a template for organizations intending to curtail the COVID-19 risk. Customisation of the COVID-19 Bowtie will be necessary to ensure that

  • the basic elements are applicable to your organisation (e.g. threats, consequences, controls, escalation factors and escalation factor controls). These would be need to be reviewed and modified as appropriate through workshops facilitated by our consultant;
  • the essential features to ensure effective barrier management such as persons responsible/accountable for controls, control effectiveness and criticality etc. are reviewed and modified as appropriate.

Our Services

Pace Up offers a complete Bowtie service covering:

  • Training delivery/workshop facilitation
  • Consulting support
  • The BowTieXP software

Talk to Us

For more information on our services, please contact Faiz Latip at +60 19 699 8609 or

Written by: Faizal Farid Wajidi, Principal Consultant, HSE & Risk Management, Pace Up Sdn Bhd