How to implement a corrective plan of action for safety risks
Workplace incidents can significantly impact an organisation's employees, operations, and reputation. The risk is especially high when the same incident types occur time and time again. When an incident occurs, it is essential to identify the root cause, develop a corrective plan of action, and implement changes to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future. This article will outline practical steps for implementing corrective actions that prevent workplace incidents from repeating.
Identify the root cause
Understanding the underlying reasons for an incident is essential to prevent it from happening again. A thorough investigation into the incident can help identify contributing factors, such as inadequate training, faulty equipment, or ineffective policies or procedures.
An investigation can also uncover systemic issues that may have contributed to the incident. For example, if an incident occurs due to employee fatigue, it may indicate a more significant problem with workload or scheduling. Identifying these underlying issues is vital to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.
Collecting and analysing data is an integral part of the root cause process and involves reviewing incident reports, conducting interviews with employees, and analysing work processes. Analysing this data can help identify patterns and trends, providing insights into the underlying causes of the incident.
There are several popular root cause analysis methods, including the Pareto Chart, 5 Whys, Fishbone Diagram, Scatter Plot Diagram, and Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA). Out of these, the 5 Whys technique is a widely used, simple and effective method in identifying the underlying causes of a problem to determine the root cause.
As the name indicates, 5 Whys involves asking "why" five times to get to the underlying cause of a problem. For example, if a machine breaks down, you would ask, "why did it break down?" The answer might be "because it overheated." You would then ask, "why did it overheat?" and continue asking, "why" until you reach the root cause of the problem. This method is effective because it helps identify the underlying causes of a problem rather than just treating the symptoms.
Develop a corrective plan of action
After identifying the root cause, the next step is to develop a corrective plan of action. During the development process, it is essential to prioritise actions based on their potential impact on safety and the likelihood of success. It is also necessary to set realistic timelines for implementing the corrective actions.
To ensure that similar incidents do not occur, the corrective plan of action must address the underlying issues that led to the incident and lay out specific measures to prevent their recurrence. One effective way to apply preventive measures is through the hierarchy of controls. The hierarchy is a system that minimises or eliminates workplace hazards and consists of five levels: elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment (PPE).
Among these levels, elimination and substitution are considered the most effective methods since they remove the hazard or replace it with a safer alternative. For instance, hazardous chemicals can be eliminated from a process or substituted with non-toxic materials. However, PPE is less effective because it only shields the individual wearing it and does not eliminate the hazard.
Implement the corrective actions
To prevent workplace incidents from recurring, it is essential to implement the right corrective actions. Involving employees in the process and providing them with the necessary resources and support is crucial to ensuring success. This not only gives employees confidence in the solution but also ensures that it works in practice.
First, set up a method of assigning corrective actions and notifying the task owner, and often that person’s supervisor, of upcoming deadlines. On-time resolution of corrective actions is tightly correlated with a measurable reduction in workplace incidents, yet it can be difficult to achieve with all the other demands on operations and EHS teams. A best practice is to assign, notify, and track corrective actions with EHS software that gives the relevant people visibility at all times.
Once the action is completed, measure its impact. This step may involve tracking metrics such as the number of incidents or near-misses, the completion of training programs, or the implementation of new policies and procedures. This is also easily accomplished with EHS software.
When implementing a corrective plan of action, it is vital to consider any unintended consequences. For example, if a corrective action involves adding a new safety procedure, how might that impact productivity? It's always important to find a balance and ensure that the corrective actions are practical and feasible.
Communicate changes and lessons learned
Communication plays a vital role in the prevention of workplace incident reoccurrence. Effective communication entails sharing updates and lessons learned with all employees in the organisation, regardless of their position, to ensure that everyone is aware of new policies and procedures.
Before speaking with employees, ensure all field-level managers know and understand the changes. These front-line leaders can help guarantee the consistent implementation of the changes throughout the organisation.
Communication should be continuous and include frequent updates on progress and any changes to policies or procedures. Visual aids, safety videos, and past incidents can improve the effectiveness of this communication and make them resonate with employees.
How Ideagen EHS can help
Preventing workplace incidents from reoccurring requires a proactive and systematic approach. Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) software can make this process more efficient by providing a centralised system for collecting and tracking incident data, ensuring that thorough root cause investigations are conducted, and assigning owners for corrective plans of action and tracking their progress.
Ideagen EHS has helped companies digitise, standardise, and analyse their safety data across their entire organisation for the past 20 years.
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