In the 1905 book "The Life of Reason: The Phases of Human Progress" Spanish philosopher George Santayana give us the famous (and often paraphrased) quote "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it".
In 2020 Deidra Helmig of Boreal Services Group Inc. says, "If you don't put effort into corrective actions you're going to have the same incident happening again and again". Is Deidra the modern day equivalent of Santayana? I'll let you be the judge.
After an incident, we all want to find out what happened (root cause), and when we get that root cause we can work towards making sure a repeat incident doesn't happen. What is a corrective action? Well, if this is new for you we can look at the definition in CSA Z1000 Occupational health and safety management:
Corrective action — action taken to remove or control the cause of an OHSMS (occupational health and safety management system) nonconformity, eliminate the hazard, or minimize the associated risk (e.g., fix an existing problem)
So, you had an incident, and now you have to fix your system to make sure it doesn't happen again...
The immediate focus of your corrective action should be to identify and correct the cause of your incident. Someone tripped over some materials that were placed on a designated walkway? Move the materials!
So you've picked up the stuff that caused someone to trip. Why was that stuff put there in the first place? Address the underlying causes by looking at your system. Was the designated material storage area full? Why was it full? Did the new guy, without proper training, move the materials? Why was the new guy moving materials? This step can be a bit trickier since it's easy to see an immediate cause (tripping hazard), but it can be tougher to determine why the tripping hazard was put there in the first place.
Going back to our tripping example...let's say we've determined to minimize the risk for injury in the future everyone will have to wear full face motorcycle helmets, football pads and bubble-wrap. Sure that level of PPE will protect people if they trip, but it's going to limit mobility, vision, and if these workers are outside in the summer it's going to lead to heat stress or heat exhaustion.
Extra special example for people who grew up watching Sesame Street: Recall the Bert and Ernie sketch where a dripping faucet was keeping Bert awake. Ernie fixed this by turning on the blender so Bert couldn't hear the faucet. Ernie then solved the problem of the noisy blender by blasting the stereo...same deal.
You know what you need to do, now do it! The world is full of endless lists, recommendations, and actions that receive no attention. Don't do that. Come up with an action plan to address your corrective actions. Assign tasks, deadlines, desired outcomes, and then make sure to follow up.
Document your corrective action process. Meetings, actions, responsibilities, schedules, etc... If it's documented, then you can share the process and the findings and you can ensure that everyone remembers the past.
Developing a Corrective Actions Log where you can keep track of all of your corrective actions from incidents, inspections, etc. is an easy way to track what needs to be done by whom and by when. Make sure that someone is in charge of that log and is keeping it up to date so that things don't fall by the wayside. If you want a same Corrective Actions Log, be in touch with us, we'd be happy to send you a template!
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