Risk Assessment, are you serious!!!

Why we do or need to carry out a risk assessment? To check and assess the situation and perform any task with minimum risk possible. That’s the whole idea of Risk Assessment. It can be carried out for any job or a single task or multiple task or activities involved. It may range from a simple activity of driving a car to a complex set of activities which involve working at office meeting clients, giving presentations, preparing reports and then driving in your car back to home. These activities may look simple in a general environment but when it comes to occupational hazards then risk assessment acts as one of the critical tool for completion of a task or job with zero injuries and accidents.

Bow Tie Risk Assessment

Bowtie risk assessment is a hazard centric and barrier based model to differentiate between proactive and reactive risk management.

A bow tie mainly starts with identifying a hazard which may lead to top event when there is a loss of control upon the hazard. Top Event is the event we’re trying to avoid as it will lead to incident / injuries while performing the task. There are multiple threats involved which may lead to a top event and this top event can have several consequences. Important thing here is how can we manage or control the risks while carrying out risk assessment. Risks can be managed or controlled by having barriers for each threat.

Risk Assessment Application: Explosion inside a tanker filled with chemicals inside Petrochemical facility

Let’s understand it from this incident wherein a chemical tanker was ripped off in a blast followed by heavy fire. Though the raging fire was controlled but it caused multi million loss to the company.

Here driving the tanker inside a petrochemical facility is hazard and explosion is the top event. There are multiple threats involved that led to explosion like incompatible chemical stored inside the tanker, reaction due to adverse heat and temperature inside the tanker, driving in adverse weather conditions like heavy rainfall, dense fog leading to poor or limited visibility. These incidents can be controlled or effect of top event can be reduced by preventative barriers. One of the ways to have a control is to have compatible chemicals within the tanker, by introduction of this barrier we remove the threat of reaction of chemical which is metal to chemical inside the storage tanker. Similarly for adverse weather conditions, driving within the speed limits with headlights and hazard light turned on could be followed. If a barrier is lost it may result in top event and can cause multiple consequences. Also, several mitigative barriers should be in place to reduce the impact in case, a top event occurs. For example using Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) and Hazcom Label available on the transported chemical which helps to assess and handle in case an emergency, vehicle check at the security gate fitted with spark arrestor carrying required chemical data, if no data sheet or communication is made, exercise stop work and don’t let the tanker inside facility until clearance from Supervisor is obtained. If mitigative barriers are not in place or fails, consequences are more likely to occur or impact of top event will be high.

What went wrong

A careful risk assessment was required for covering all types of jobs including movement of chemical tankers inside flammable petrochemical facility which was not in place. Compatibility check of chemicals inside the metal tanker being stored and transported was not carried out. Material Safety Data Sheet was not available with a Hazcom label of different chemical pasted outside the tanker. The driver was not aware of Hazcom & Spill Response. Even though, required documents were not available chemical tanker was allowed inside the storage facility. 

After a risk assessment, it has to be checked / verified with Job Lead and all means of support needs to be provided by Health and Safety personnel for carrying out risk assessments. There are several threats which may lead to this explosion inside the tanker and also there may be several negative consequences for the explosion inside the facility. Important thing is barriers are a must and is required to avoid the realisation of these consequences. The Key point is to “access and manage risk”.

Risk Assessment and IoT

Risk assessments for any job can be coupled with Internet of Things [IoT] with Augmented and Virtual Reality. According to Mr. Narendra Kini, CEO Miami Children’s Health System, the retention level after a virtual reality (VR) training session can be as much as 80%, compared to 20% retention after a week with traditional training. One of the benefits from such virtual and augmented reality based trainings are they provide a safe environment, where making mistakes is not only okay but enhances the overall learning. Post training skills learnt through VR can be applied directly to the real world. This type of training not only address the issue at its primary stage but it keeps check as a barrier in each factors which may lead to top event. Such VR based trainings are more particle on learning new skill sets like learning how to drive a car or operate a tool or machine where making a mistake in real world can lead to several consequences while in a VR & AR based training it will enhance the learning.

About the Author

Amitabh B is passionate about safety. A result orientated and credible Health Safety & Environment (HSE) professional with a track record of delivering unprecedented value, he is determined to improve commercial advantage through improvement to HSE. This is achieved by developing & implementing proactive risk management strategies that are aligned with business goals.


Amitabh teaches, makes aware employees, gives training and educate personnel and professionals on how to create Healthier and Safer Environment at work so that they understand the importance of workplace safety and move them toward their core goals. His understanding of the intricacies of Health & Safety as well as his educational background provide a strong foundation to articulate safety at workplace and drive initiatives ahead to cater HSE performance. 

Safety Professional | Risk Management Consultant | Explorer | Disaster Management Strategist | Technical Geek | Visionary | Problem Solver | Visual Learner | Adaptable | Self Motivated