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Corrections vs. corrective actions in ISO 45001

One of the most commonly confused concepts in any management system is the difference between a correction and a corrective action, and ISO 45001:2018 is no different. Many people will do an immediate correction for an issue and think they have done all that is necessary to address the problem. While this may be possible for some very simple problems, it is often not the case for anything that would be considered an incident in an Occupational Health & Safety Management System (OHSMS). Very often, more is needed.

While corrections and corrective actions are related, they are not the same thing. One addresses the immediate concern, while the other addresses the root of the problem; one is immediate and the other is more long term. Both are important to address the incidents that you encounter in your OHSMS.

What is a correction in the OHSMS?

When you have an incident in your OHSMS, be it an accident that causes injury or a near miss where someone is almost hurt, you will want to make immediate changes so that other employees do not suffer the same fate in the short term. This could be adding a temporary warning sign, repairing a damaged or broken safety fence, or even stopping work in an area until the incident is fully investigated and the problem is fully resolved.

These corrections are often called containment actions, and this forms one step in the process of implementing a corrective action, which ISO 45001 terms “taking action to control and correct” the problem. It is important to make sure that no one is injured while you are fully correcting the problem, but this is not where the process should stop. Just because you repaired the safety guard doesn’t mean you know why it was damaged in the first place. Corrections are often only a “Band-Aid” solution until you can look deeper into why the problem happened, and they can quickly become ineffective when people get used to having them there (e.g., a warning sign can be ignored if it is in place too long).

To learn more about how incident investigation works, read this article on How to perform incident investigation according to ISO 45001.


What is a corrective action?

For a corrective action, you need to look into why the problem happened and then find the root cause and correct it. This will prevent the incident form occurring again in the future, because you have made sure that the root cause of the problem is no longer present. If you are not looking deeper into why a problem happened so that you can remove the ultimate cause, you are not really doing a corrective action; the actions you are taking are likely only a correction.

If you find that the reason a safety guard was not working was because it degraded over time, you might need to put in a preventive maintenance program to ensure that the safety devices in your process continue to work over time. If you had a near miss where some shelving units collapsed, but no one was hurt, you might need to look at your process for approval of shelving units (if the shelving was not suited to the purpose), your process for installing shelving units (if the shelves were not properly installed and secured to the wall), or even your process & training for how shelves can be stacked (if you found the shelves were over capacity). The action required will be different depending on what you find was the root cause that allowed the incident to happen.

For a more detailed look at a seven-step process for corrective actions, check out this blog post on Seven steps for corrective and preventive actions in the OH&S management system.

Why are both important?

I hope you can see that both of these items are important to the process of addressing incidents in the OHSMS. The immediate correction needs to be put into place so that in the short term, employees will not be at risk of having the incident occur to them as well. Meanwhile, the long-term corrective action is needed to identify the ultimate cause of the incident, so that plans can be put into place to remove or eliminate that cause to ensure the incident will not happen again when the containment actions are no longer effective. The safety of your employees and visitors depends on you properly addressing your incidents to prevent recurrence.

If you are implementing ISO 45001 requirements in your company, why not check out this Project Proposal for ISO 45001 Implementation.

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.