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Seven steps for corrective and preventive actions in the OH&S management system

Many people think that corrective and preventive actions are a waste of time, or at best, a show for the certification auditors when they come to assess your OHSAS 18001 occupational health & safety (OH&S) management system. Some companies struggle with having an effective corrective action system that works. Here are some ideas on using the seven-step corrective and preventive action system to improve your OH&S management system (OH&SMS).

How to use the seven-step corrective action process in OHSAS 18001

I have outlined a good seven-step process that can be used for corrective and preventive actions in a company’s ISO 9001 management system, which is equally applicable to OHSAS 18001. This blog on the seven steps for corrective and preventive actions to support continual improvement must be read to understand the process; however, in this blog I will show you how it is applicable to the OH&S management system.

Below is an example of how to apply this process to a problem discovered in the OH&S management system. Before starting out, make sure you understand the difference between “correction” and “corrective action” as it is explained in the previous blog, because this is an important distinction that can help you find the best payback by using the corrective and preventive action system, rather than simple fixes, to address big, repetitive problems.


Using the seven-step process with OHSAS 18001

It is good to remember that the process for corrective and preventive actions, like any process, is not dependent on any specific tool. This process can be done using a computer program, forms stored electronically on the computer, or even paper forms – it is important to identify the root cause of a problem and make sure that it does not happen again, not how you store the data. Below is an example of the process as it would be used for an OH&S problem:

Step 1) Define the problem: It is best to use a “should be” and “as found” statement for your problem definition. If you can’t identify what the situation should be, then it might be that you are not identifying a real problem. Our example will be:

Should be: Personal protective equipment (PPE) is to be worn when dispensing chemicals under the fume hood.

As found: In an audit of the process, 3 out of 5 operators admitted that they did not use PPE during this operation.

(In our example, we are fortunate that this was caught in an audit rather than due to an accident that caused injury to a worker.)

Step 2) Define the problem scope: In our example, the scope is this chemical dispensing operation. Let’s say that an investigation of similar processes did not find other examples where PPE was not used as directed; however, other fume hood stations using this same chemical dispensing process also had examples of PPE not being worn. This means it is not a problem with all PPE usage, but for this operation only.

Step 3) Contain the problem: This is the step where you solve the immediate problem, such as re-training all operators in the PPE needed or placing signs as reminders of what to wear. This will help in the short term, but you must make sure the problem does not return.

Step 4) Search for the root cause: This is the hardest part of corrective action: finding the source of the problem. Without finding the root cause of the problem, any fix you put in place can be short lived or ultimately fail. Many methods exist to do this, and this is a short blog, so I can’t explain them all here. One useful method is the fishbone diagram shown below, which lists all the potential causes for the problem listed on the right, which can then be reviewed and eliminated until the final cause is revealed.

Potential causes of the problem

For our example, since a full analysis is irrelevant, we will state that the root cause was deemed to be the inaccessibility of the PPE, as it was often misplaced, so operators proceeded without taking the time to find the PPE they needed.

Step 5) Plan the corrective action: The plan decided for this cause was to install a board that was clearly visible where the PPE needed for the job is always placed. In this way, it is clear what PPE is needed, and the chance of misplacing the PPE is reduced because it has an identified home when the task is complete.

Step 6) Implement your plan: For this plan, the implementation involves getting the boards, putting them in place, and updating the employee training to show where the PPE is to be kept.

Step 7) Make sure the plan works with follow-up actions: This is where companies often fail. It is important to review the process after the plan has been implemented to make sure that it has worked. In this case, the follow-up is to verify in the next few audits if the PPE is being returned to the location and people are using it. If there are repeated findings of the problem, then you need to return to the root cause analysis to review other potential causes, because you have obviously missed the root cause with your corrective action.

The best way to address the biggest problems

Your OH&S management system is there to improve your workplace health & safety, and properly addressing problems is the best way to improve. With health & safety, it is better to identify corrective and preventive actions for situations where an injury was avoided, often called a “near miss,” than to wait for an injury to happen, so drive your continual improvement by properly fixing the recurring problems you have.

To help you track and handle all of your nonconformities, you can use this Conformio compliance software.

Advisera Mark Hammar
Author
Mark Hammar
Mark Hammar is a Certified Manager of Quality / Organizational Excellence through the American Society for Quality, and has been a Quality Professional since 1994. Mark has experience in auditing, improving processes, and writing procedures for Quality, Environmental, and Occupational Health & Safety Management Systems, and is certified as a Lead Auditor for ISO 9001, AS9100, and ISO 14001.