Probabilistics is a methodology for dealing with uncertainty in calculations. It is a core area of expertise for TNO and we apply it in our research on various safety issues. We use probabilistic methods in areas including disaster impact, pharmaceutical safety and the risks of industrial activities. We also apply this expertise in research on the built environment.

In the field of the built environment, TNO applies advanced probabilistic methods to:

  • Structural safety. The safety of structures in relation to the probability of failure (collapse).
  • Internal safety. The safety of persons using tunnels or other infrastructure works.
  • External safety. The safety of residents in the vicinity of factories and along roads and railway routes where hazardous materials are transported.
  • Water safety. A specific form of external safety that involves protecting the population of the low-lying Netherlands against floods.

Working with models

In most instances there are few cases available for calculating the probability (which is usually low) of failure, such as collapse and flooding. Safety can be assessed with tests (including scale tests) in a controlled environment (laboratory). These tests are the basis for physical models, which are used to simulate reality. Safety can therefore be determined arithmetically. Probabilistic techniques can be used to shorten computing time for statistical analyses. The techniques can be combined with knowledge of the situation to accurately determine and show failure probability and the consequences of failure. There are no standard calculation models available for safety assessment in complex projects and situations. The experts at TNO carry out calculations that are tailored to the specific situation. They make customised models and identify uncertainties and their effect on safety.

Risk-based management and maintenance

The management and maintenance of structures is increasingly based on assessing risks and prioritising. Due to the growing number of structures, choices need to be made in terms of whether repair and replacement work is necessary or desirable (probabilistic management and maintenance). Inspection frequency can be optimised by comparing the results of different inspections. Higher-risk, older structures may need to be inspected more often, while new structures may not need to be inspected for the time being, or only on an ad-hoc basis. Older structures that have never shown deficiencies will probably remain safe for a number of years.

Our work

Bridges and viaducts

Our infrastructure has approximately 40,000 bridges and viaducts. These civil works are subject to ageing, and at the same time traffic loads are increasing. That is why one of our focus areas is to extend... Read more
Our work

Locks and water safety

Water safety is literally a matter of life and death for the Netherlands, especially when we consider the climate changes that are causing rising sea levels and greater water discharge via the major rivers.... Read more
Our work

Tunnel safety

Accidents in tunnels can have serious consequences. When an explosion or fire occurs in an enclosed system, the fire can spread to other vehicles and escape is difficult. TNO has unique expertise in safety... Read more
Our work

Safety and risk assessment

Safety is a precondition for our infrastructure. In many cases, current regulations are not adequate for existing buildings. TNO uses analysis and assessment methods to develop frameworks for ensuring... Read more

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