Bowtie Master

What are the 3 elements of a Bowtie Diagram?

Bowtie diagrams are an excellent tool in risk assessments to help you visualise your risk. Bowtie diagrams are easy to read, and also easy to create! But, in order to get started, you should be familiar with the 3 main elements of a bowtie diagram and how to construct them. Keep reading to find out.

What are the 3 main elements of a bowtie diagram?

Bowtie diagrams consist of three main elements. The diagram is a visual representation of the relationships between three elements. The diagram visualizes an event with its perceived threats, consequences, and barriers that mitigate the threat or prevent the consequences.

The 3 elements of a Bowtie Diagram:

3 elements of a bowtie diagram

1. Top Event

The top event is situated in the middle of the bowtie diagram. It is the reason why the bowtie diagram is being made. The top event, if it were to occur, has the potential to cause significant damage. At the moment, nothing bad has happened. An example of a top event could be losing control of a car, or a data breach or system crash.

2. Threats (or Causes)

On the left hand side of the diagram are the causes of the top event. These are the things that would contribute to the top event happening. There are many types of causes, including system failures, human error, or malicious attacks.

3. Consequences

Consequences are on the right hand side of the top event. These are what happens when you have lost control of the situation resulting in undesirable events.  Once the potential consequences of the top event have been identified you can then assess what the impact will be and how to mitigate the damage by implementing preventative measures.


Though a well-constructed bowtie diagram requires more elements than the 3 listed here, the Top Event, Threats and Consequences are a good place to start. Next, focus on adding barriers to your diagram in order to visualise the efforts you have in place to prevent an incident or mitigate its consequences. 

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