Risk Management Illustrated: Bowling – What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Risk Management Applied to Bowling with Friends

No one likes a killjoy. It’s no fun when someone is always pointing out what could go wrong or never looking on the bright side. No one likes that person—unless they’re in risk management.

A necessary aspect of environmental health & safety (EHS), risk management is a proactive method of protection, looking at an environment critically to see what could go wrong and putting controls in place to prevent anything from going wrong.

Here’s a practical example: You’re getting together with some friends for the first time in a long while, and you’re going bowling. With nearly half of all Americans fully vaccinated, we’ll put the pandemic aside in this scenario. There’ll be hugs and handshakes and shared fried foods, a relaxed pastime that you’re all happy to be getting back to.

Except you. You’re going to be the evening’s party pooper. You’re going to analyze the bowling alley and anticipate where incidents could happen, and then think of how they could be stopped from happening at all.

Now, even before the pandemic, neither you nor your friends were very good at bowling. And, since it’s been so long since you’ve all gone bowling, your skills have been reduced to -1.

Let’s break down the concept of bowling for such below-novice players:

  • You have to trade your shoes for a (probably ratty) pair that has been worn by countless other people and are questionably clean. They are also slippery once you step onto the bowling lane floor.
  • You choose a large, heavy bowling ball to carry around and throw down a long, slippery lane.
  • Said bowling ball has three holes in it for you to stick your fingers in, which need to be appropriately sized so that the ball will release when you throw it down said lane.
  • Once the bowling ball reaches the end of the lane, it’s rolled through a mechanical system beneath the floor and brought back to the player at the start of the lane, via a tunnel and track that pushes out the bowling ball.
  • The cycle of throwing the heavy ball down the slippery lane continues for each player.
  • And, many bowling alleys serve alcohol, which is known for reducing a person’s motor and decision-making skills.

See anything risky in that scenario? Has anything bad happened?

Not yet. But when it comes to risk, these factors are all considered causes because they could end up causing an incident. Causes can lead to incidents which lead to consequences—bad things that happen from not doing enough to prevent the incident from happening or reducing the impact if it does happen.

Someone could slip in their bowling shoes, or drop the bowling ball on their foot, or get their fingers stuck in the ball, or throw it terribly and hit someone else, or someone could stick their hand into the bowling ball transit authority tunnel and injure themselves!

And let’s not forget the greater potential for these things to happen after you and your friends celebrate your outing with a few adult beverages.

Cynical as it sounds, assessing situations through a critical lens like this, anticipating anything that could go wrong, is necessary to properly manage risk.

Management involves keeping things organized and well-maintained. The same is true for risk management. So, to properly analyze, assess and manage risks, each possible cause needs to be addressed and improved with a solution—a “control”, in risk terminology. Those solutions are called controls because they work to control the level of risk in an environment, whether the control is to reduce (mitigative controls) or remove a risk entirely from an environment (preventative controls).

Think about what controls could be put in place to reduce the risks inside the bowling alley.

  • Bowling shoes could be cleaned between users (which should really be standard practice), and their traction could be improved to stop guests from slipping.
  • There could be an employee assisting novice guests when selecting bowling balls, to make sure they are the right size and weight for each person.
  • There could be nets installed between lanes to ensure that balls don’t land in other lanes.
  • A gate could be added to the opening of the bowling ball retrieval tunnel so that guests aren’t able to stick their hands inside.
  • The bowling alley could require that all guests be given an overview of how to properly bowl before starting to reduce possible misplay.

This example of bowling helps us understand that we need to have our risk awareness turned up at all times, since being oblivious to existing risks increases the chances of an incident happening.

So maybe you and your friends won’t go bowling after tonight. Thanks to you, they’re now all well aware of the risks involved and will be avoiding the bowling alley until some controls have been put in place.

Maybe next week, you could try visiting a rollercoaster theme park….

While bowling alleys most likely wouldn’t invest in a risk management program, VelocityEHS is here to help you manage your workplace risks.

The capabilities within the VelocityEHS Risk Management software have been helping customers assess, develop and sustain their workplace risk management programs with impressive positive results. From bowtie assessments to master controls to quantitative risk analysis, this easy-to-use, enterprise-wide software makes managing risk simple to keep everyone in your organization out of harm’s way.

Interested to see how you can make your workplace safer? Visit our risk management page to learn more and request a demo with one of our customer solutions consultants today!