Risk Barriers as Swiss Cheese?

There's a model that can help us visualize and consider the different barriers to harm: The Swiss Cheese Model of Accident Causation.

Learn what makes up this model and how ideas are represented. There are also different ways that the model is being used today.

How can we design for controls, policies, or actions that are part of the use of our product but outside of our control? We step through an example of a situation where we're thinking about our product design in this way.

A cheese slice represents a control, action, or policy that’s put in place as a barrier to risk, including actions that lesson the consequences of an error. 

Holes (or eyes in our slices of swiss) are the shortcomings or failures of our risk barriers. The classic Swiss Cheese Model includes active failures, latent failures, and preconditions.  

The arrow represents a potential of harm. If the arrowhead makes it through all the slices of swiss, it means that the risk barriers failed and the harmful event was allowed to happen. 

Risk Barriers for the COVID-19 Pandemic Explained by the Swiss Cheese Model

We can see that this model can be used to help us think through complex systems, to visualize and communicate complex problems. I hope it will help you with your risk management ideas for your designs, both in developing them and communicating them.  

See how Flight Safety of Australia uses the Swiss Cheese Model to break-down and communicate risk barriers to prevent commercial airline crashes. Safety in mind: Swiss cheese and bowties | Flight Safety Australia

"Safety in mind: Swiss cheese and bowties." Flight Safety Australia. Civil Aviation Safety Authority Australia. September 7, 2016. https://www.flightsafetyaustralia.com/2016/09/safety-in-mind-swiss-cheese-and-bowties/ Accessed Jan 10, 2021.

An article interviewing people about the Swiss Cheese Model and measuring the common understanding about the features of the model.

Perneger, Thomas V. "The Swiss Cheese Model of Safety Incidents: Are there Holes in the Metaphor?" BMC Health Serv Res. 2005; 5: 71. Published online 2005 Nov 9. doi: 10.1186/1472-6963-5-71. Accessed 2022 Jan 10.

Just for fun

Learn why swiss cheese has holes in it. Will we not be able to use this Swiss Cheese Model in future generations if the swiss of the future has no holes?

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