Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is not just a structured method of problem-solving; it's a vital component of organisational leadership. The goal of RCA is to fully understand what caused an issue, allowing for effective corrective actions.
One of the first steps in a successful RCA is identifying performance or opportunity gaps within an organisation. These gaps reflect ways in which an organisation falls short or fails to deliver on its capabilities. RCA helps in pinpointing these gaps, thereby allowing for more targeted solutions.
This article will take you through the benefits of RCA and the three basic types of root causes behind workplace incidents. We’ll then explore the two popular methodologies for RCA and how you can use the RCA methodology to identify them.
Finally, we’ll share tools and best practices to help you implement a robust RCA framework so you can develop a comprehensive problem-solving process for safety and risk management in your organisation.
Read on to discover how RCA can revolutionise your approach to problem-solving and risk management.
Without a structured RCA framework for resolving incidents, organisations risk implementing superficial quick fixes that may address some of the symptoms but not the core problems.
An effective RCA methodology helps an organisation's Health & Safety (H&S) team to identify the root causes of a reported incident in the workplace, which is essential to assign effective preventive or corrective actions. Implementing this framework have many benefits:
There are three fundamental types of root causes:
A study by Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings identified two popular RCA frameworks. We will cover each one with an example.
This is perhaps the most popular RCA technique because of its simplicity. The method is to ask why something happened at least five times. Here’s an example of how it works.
Incident: A construction worker fell and broke his arm.
Using this RCA technique, we’ve identified the actual root cause to be an organisational root cause. The solution for the organisation is to improve the process of approving budgets.
Speeding up the process of approving budgets doesn’t just help prevent future similar incidents. It may also bring the added benefit of improving productivity when construction workers can quickly get what they need to perform their tasks.
Without using this RCA technique, one could have soon concluded that it was solely an environmental or individual root cause. Any corrective actions in these areas are likely to be ineffective or short-term.
A causal tree is used to evaluate other possible causes that contributed to the incident. This can help organisations identify other possible preventive or corrective actions.
Here’s an example of how a causal tree could look like for the same incident example above:
Organisations can explore other possible root causes that need addressing using a causal tree. This RCA methodology is beneficial for identifying root causes across environmental, individual, and organisational categories.
Another advantage of using the causal tree framework is that it allows organisations to implement short-term solutions to prevent incidents while they take more time to find answers to more prominent issues.
For example, the construction company can implement the short-term solution of placing warning signs in front of extended wires on the ground. Meanwhile, the organisation will look into solving the other root causes identified, such as improving the budget approval process and hazard reporting training.
Root Cause Analysis (RCA) can be highly effective in addressing workplace safety issues when done correctly.
However, there are some common mistakes that organisations make when conducting RCA.
One of the most common mistakes is jumping to conclusions without thoroughly examining the available information. This often leads to implementing quick fixes that do not address the root cause of the problem.
Tip: Ensure that you take the time to gather all relevant information and systematically work through the RCA process to identify the underlying cause.
Another mistake is solely blaming individuals for incidents without considering the broader organisational context. This can lead to a culture of blame and an unwillingness to report incidents in the future.
Tip: While it is essential to consider individual factors, also examine organisational root causes and environmental factors that may have contributed to the incident. This will help to create a more comprehensive understanding of the issue and lead to more effective solutions.
One common mistake organisations make is neglecting to involve the right people in the RCA process. A successful RCA requires input from various stakeholders, including employees directly involved in the incident, supervisors, and management. Collaborative analysis helps in collecting a variety of viewpoints and promotes a sense of collective accountability for workplace safety.
Tip: Involving all pertinent stakeholders in the RCA process is crucial, as it aids in collecting a variety of viewpoints and promotes a sense of collective accountability for workplace safety.
Poor documentation of the RCA process and its outcomes can lead to a lack of accountability and hinder the implementation of corrective actions.
Tip: Document every step of the RCA process, including the incident description, investigation, root cause identification, and proposed corrective actions. This will help ensure that all stakeholders are aware of their responsibilities and can track the progress of the implemented solutions.
Implementing corrective actions is only one part of the RCA process. Organisations sometimes fail to follow up on these actions, which can lead to a recurrence of the incident or issue.
Tip: Establish a system to monitor the progress of corrective actions and evaluate their effectiveness. Regularly review the implemented solutions and make any necessary adjustments to ensure that the root cause is fully addressed and the risk of recurrence is minimised.
To enhance workplace safety, it is crucial to establish a strong RCA framework within your organisation.
These are the following steps to implement such a framework:
The effectiveness of any Root Cause Analysis (RCA) relies heavily on the input data's accuracy and quality. Therefore, it is imperative to have a reliable incident reporting system in place to ensure the provision of high-quality input data.
Here are the characteristics of a high-quality incident report:
To write an accurate incident report, employees should be encouraged to start writing the report as soon as possible.
Delaying writing the report can lead to inaccurate reports or reports without enough detail because the memory gets fuzzy. Whenever possible or relevant, employees should also attach photos for additional context.
To help you navigate the complexities of incident reporting, we strongly recommend downloading our free checklist and comprehensive guide.
One of the best practices to improve the quality of incident reports is digitalising the incident reporting process.
Here’s an example of how Vatix’s incident reporting systems can improve the quality of workplace incident reports and RCA.
By combining mobile incident reporting with an effective RCA strategy, organisations can respond to incidents faster and more effectively to create a positive safety culture, leading to increased productivity and decreased risk of accidents and injuries.
Talk to our sales here to learn more about how you can customise our mobile incident reporting software to fit your business and improve workplace safety.