6 Steps to Design & Implement a Corrective Action Plan

When it comes to upholding workplace safety, employers are ethically and legally responsible for enforcing two types of action: corrective and preventive action. While they are similar, there is a distinct difference.

Corrective action is the action you take to address or correct the problem that caused an incident and get back on track. In other words, corrective action is used to fix a specific problem that occurred in the past. It’s different from preventive action, which is used to minimise or eliminate anticipated incidents before they occur.

In this article, we will focus on the former type—corrective action. Read on to understand all the different facets of corrective action and the best practices of how to implement it in your organisation.

Corrective Action Definition

According to the ISO 45001, a global standard for the management of occupational health and safety, corrective action is defined as:

  • an action to eliminate the cause(s) of nonconformity or an incident and to prevent recurrence; and
  • an action to eliminate a detected nonconformity.

Understanding the language involved in corrective action

Before we move any further, let’s first understand the language involved in the definition of corrective action as well as keywords and phrases that we will use in this article.

  • Incident: An incident is broadly defined as any event or accident that leads to personnel injury or damage to equipment or property. Incidents also include events or accidents that have the potential to cause harm, or in other words, near misses. 
  • Incident report: An incident report is an official recording of the facts related to an incident on the worksite. Reporting an incident is the procedure to submit an official incident report.
  • Cause: The cause is the most obvious reason that led to an incident. Causes can be physical, such as slippery floors, or behavioural, such as not wearing safety gear. An incident may have more than one cause identified. To determine the cause, an investigation needs to be conducted when creating an incident report.
  • Nonconformity: ISO DIS 45001 defines nonconformity as “non-fulfilment of a requirement.” In layman terms, nonconformity is when there has been a breach of the company’s health and safety protocols. 

Examples of health and safety breaches include equipment that does not meet the company’s required safety certification or employees who did not follow safety guidelines.

It is important to take note that incidents can still happen in the absence of nonconformities. This is why it is still important to conduct risk assessments and implement a hazard reporting program as part of your health and safety procedures. 

Regulation 5 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 puts employers under the obligation to conduct “effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of the preventive and protective measures.” 

Corrective actions form an essential part of the “preventive and protective measures” mentioned in Regulation 5. Actions taken to mitigate the risks identified from risk assessments and hazard reporting are considered preventive action. 

The Importance of Corrective Action: 5 Benefits You Need to Know

There are numerous reasons why it is beneficial for companies to take corrective action. Here, we list the top five benefits of corrective action you need to know.

1. Protect employees from further incidents

The most important and obvious purpose of corrective action is to prevent the same incident from happening again. This protects your employees from any harm or serious injuries that can occur if the incident reoccurs. 

2. Cost-saving and economic benefits

Minimising incidents can also help your company boost the bottom line by preventing property loss or damages caused by incidents.

Preventing serious injuries and work-related ill health also has cost-saving benefits for all parties—individuals, employers, and the government. According to HSE’s Summary Statistics for Great Britain 2020, workplace injury and new cases of work-related ill health in 2018/19 led to:

  • £9.6 billion in costs borne by individuals
  • £3.2 billion in costs borne by employers
  • £3.2 billion in costs borne by the government

3. Boost productivity

A safe working environment is every employee’s right. Beyond the legal obligation, demonstrating care for safety through corrective actions makes your employees feel protected and valued. This can improve morale and boost productivity. 

A study by the Australian government revealed that investing in workplace health and safety can create “higher productivity levels as a result of improved morale, motivation, commitment and/or engagement.”

4. Protect your company from legal liability

Implementing and keeping a record of corrective actions taken has the potential to protect your company from litigation. 

Should your company be investigated in court for an incident, corrective action records can act as proof that you have fulfiled your legal responsibilities under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. They also demonstrate to the court your company’s commitment to health and safety in the workplace. 

5. Facilitate insurance claims

Corrective actions can also provide your insurers with the essential information needed to process a claim after an incident successfully.

5 Different Types of Corrective Action and Examples

We’ve already covered the difference between corrective and preventive action. Now, we’re going to dive deeper into the different types of corrective action, along with examples.

1. Corrective action to reduce the risk of incidents

Once you have identified what caused the incident, the first type of corrective action you can take is reducing the risk of incidents by mitigating or removing the direct cause.

Corrective Action Example: UPS
UPS, an American package delivery and supply chain management company, adopted a policy for their drivers to minimise left turns. Since the US has right-hand driving roads, left turns will go against the flow of oncoming traffic.

According to a crash factor study by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Association, turning left is one of the leading "critical pre-crash events" of intersection-related road accidents. Data from New York City's transportation planners also reveal that left turns are three times more likely to kill pedestrians than right ones.

Based on data like this, UPS’s decision to take the corrective action of minimising left turns paid off in more ways than one. Besides reducing the risk of road accidents that can harm their employees and others, they also saved costs. UPS estimates they save 10 million gallons of fuel per year due to removing the idling time associated with left turns.

2. Corrective action to improve processes

What if you can’t remove or avoid the direct causes of incidents entirely? For example, it’s impossible to remove bad weather hazards such as icy roads or low visibility. This is where the second type of corrective actions can come into play: improving processes.

Improving processes can encompass a wide range of areas, such as improving communication processes to improving lone worker and remote team monitoring

Corrective Action Example: Pullin Shearing
Pullin Shearing Limited is a shearing contracting company based in Canterbury, New Zealand.

The hard physical nature of shearing sheep makes shearing a high-risk industry. It is impossible to remove the risks of physical labour entirely since it is part and parcel of the job. This is where Pullin Shearing applied corrective action to their processes.

One of the many corrective actions they undertook was occupational health monitoring. Since shearing poses a constant risk of overuse injuries, the company provides their workers with a list of recommended physiotherapists to refer to if they experience an injury or niggling pain.

Their occupational health monitoring also includes training their staff on good habits and useful exercises to minimise the risk of overuse injuries.

By making occupational health monitoring part of their process, the company can reduce the risk of serious or long-term injuries through early intervention and health care.

3. Corrective action to train staff

Often, an incident will require more than one type of corrective action. For example, the UPS and Pullin Shearing case studies mentioned in the previous two points would require training their drivers and shearers, respectively.

Staff training is not just limited to educate employees on understanding health and safety protocols the importance of avoiding nonconformity. It can also include upskilling your staff to become more competent and skilled to respond to emergencies and think critically to avoid incidents.

4. Corrective action to raise awareness

Hazard warnings and reminders are some forms of corrective actions to raise awareness. Even if your employees are trained to understand what hazards they work with, warning signs are critical reminders that can remind workers to stay vigilant. 

Warning signs can also help protect lone or remote workers from acts of violence. For example, a CCTV warning sign has the potential to discourage a person from committing robbery out of fear they can be identified for their crime. 

Other types of reminders can include company newsletters or brochures to educate or remind employees of health and safety best practices. 

5. Corrective action to replace or repair equipment and assets

While regular maintenance of equipment and assets should be part of every health and safety policy, sometimes it still takes a tragic incident to realise something is amiss. 

Whenever faulty equipment or assets are identified as the direct cause of an incident, immediate corrective action must be taken to halt usage of the equipment or assets until they can be repaired or replaced. 

Corrective Action Example: FAA
Between 2018 and 2019, two tragic plane crashes costing the lives of 346 people occurred; the Lion Air Flight 610 on October 29, 2018, and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on March 10, 2019.

Both crashes involved the Boeing 737 MAX. Later investigations found the fault of both crashes to be linked to the new Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which was responsible for the nosedives but had been omitted by Boeing from crew manuals and training.

Many aviation companies, whose operations included the Boeing 737 MAX as part of their fleet assets, were affected. However, the risk of putting lives at stake should operations of the passenger airline continue was too high.

On March 13 2019, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) took corrective action to ground all Boeing 737 MAX planes worldwide. The grounding eventually lasted until December 2020, resulting in an accumulated loss of billions of dollars worldwide.

In January 2021, the grounding was lifted and the MAX was cleared to return to service after the FAA published further corrective actions on the requirements for fixing the aircraft and improving pilot training.

Corrective Action Procedure: A Step-by-Step Guide

Now that you’ve understood the importance and different types of corrective action, let’s look into the different steps of identifying and implementing the best corrective action. 

Step 1: Investigate the Causes

Investigate, identify, and verify the root cause. Even if the root cause seems obvious, it’s important to thoroughly investigate every possible angle with vigilance because the causes you identify sets the direction of the next steps and solutions.

To facilitate a thorough investigation, try to include as many of the following sources as possible, where relevant:

  • Interviews with personnel and witnesses involved in the incident
  • Discussions with the manager or supervisor in charge
  • Third-party experts and inspections by relevant authorities
  • Scientific research
  • Industry reports

Step 2: Discuss and identify corrective actions

Once you have identified the root cause, discuss all possible corrective actions with your team and the relevant authorities involved. Next, evaluate the pros and cons of each corrective action, and identify the best ones you will move forward with.

Some key questions to ask yourself during the evaluation process can include:

  • How effectively will it minimise the risk of future incidents?
  • How quickly can we roll it out?
  • Will it help us achieve or improve HSE compliance?
  • Is it difficult for people to adopt?
  • What investments are required?
  • Is it within our budget?

Step 3: Design a corrective action plan

Once you have identified the best corrective actions to take, the next step is to design a corrective action plan. This plan needs to include:

  • A list of tasks to implement the plan
  • A timeline for the tasks
  • The people responsible for each task

Step 4: Submit the correction action report

Create a corrective action report detailing the incident, the corrective actions chosen, the timeline, and the people responsible. Submit the report and ensure a copy all relevant parties have access to it.

Step 5: Follow up

Follow up on tasks with the people responsible according to the proposed timeline.

Step 6: Review

Create a schedule to review the effectiveness of the corrective action plan. This could range from weekly to quarterly to annually, depending on the severity of or risks associated with the incident.

How to Implement Corrective Action Plan in Your Organisation

A corrective action plan can have many complex moving parts. This means many tasks depend on other tasks, making communication and follow-up critical to the success of any corrective action procedure. 

All of this can be a lot to manage on top of the regular, daily tasks you’re responsible for in the workplace. Additionally, implementing a corrective action plan via manual methods such as emails, SMS, mobile messaging apps, or verbal communication can lead to many things falling through the cracks. 

Other than being time-consuming, managing a corrective action plan manually can also lead to miscommunication and mistakes because of how difficult it can be to keep track of discussions, task completion, or other issues that come up.

One of the best ways to implement a corrective action plan is by using a task management platform that everyone involved can access. This will streamline communications, delegation, discussing issues, and following up with tasks to ensure a smooth and fast implementation. 

Our Workflows platform is an off-the-shelf solution dedicated to managing the entire chain of events related to workplace safety, from incident reporting through to managing and completing corrective action tasks. Here’s a glimpse into Workflows:

  • Let's you standardise day-to-day inspections.
  • A library of inspection templates at your fingertips to collect consistent data.
  • A visual interface that is easy and simple to use.
  • Communicate and manage tasks across your whole team via mobile devices.
  • Streamline inspections and corrective actions.

Corrective Action

Taking corrective action after an incident is an employer’s moral and legal responsibility towards their employees and the public they serve at large. Implementing the right corrective actions is a six-part procedure that requires the involvement and cooperation of many parties.

A critical part of keeping a corrective action plan on track is thorough documentation and trackable communication. A task management platform specifically designed for workplace health safety, such as our Workflows platform, can help you track, organise, and review your progress. 
To discover how Workflows can help you manage the corrective actions in your company, try out our free trial, or request a personal 1:1 demo.

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