It’s nice to have an assortment of tools we can use for improving safety. Corrective action reports (CARs) are worth adding to your safety tool kit.

Corrective action reports come from Lean Six Sigma. They're used for removing variation but they work just as well for improving safety.

CARs use a simple structure that focuses on root cause analysis. The idea is to think corrective as opposed to correction.

Correction: Making a change, like getting back on course after making a wrong turn

Corrective: Learning how the wrong turn occurred in the first place and putting controls in place to prevent it from occurring again in the future

I will explain more about what a corrective action report is and explain how you can use it to improve safety.

(Learn 10 Critical Steps for Investigating and Reporting Accidents.)

Using CARs to Drive Safety

For incidents such as injuries, property damage, and near misses, it is customary to use an incident investigation form. The form has all the information you need to collect as part of the investigation, such as who, when, where, how and why the incident occurred. The form will also include root cause and corrective actions.

Where the incident investigation report focuses on an incident, the corrective action report focuses on any safety concern. As a safety manager, I created a CAR whenever we performed safety audits and found non-compliances or safety concerns. The CAR captured the identified concern and followed a simple structure to resolve the issue from a root cause perspective. The goal of the corrective action report is to eliminate a future recurrence of the identified problem.

A simple CAR template would include the four C’s and a simple root cause analysis tool.

The Four C's

  1. Concern: Describe the problem or concern as you understand it
  2. Cause: Describe what caused the issue (refer to the root cause analysis)
  3. Countermeasure: State the corrective action to avoid a recurrence of the problem
  4. Confirm: Set times and dates for observations to confirm that the control measure is working

Simple Root Cause Analysis Tools

On the back of the form, you can provide a template for two simple root cause analysis tools. I recommend using a fishbone diagram and the Five Whys.

Fishbone Diagram

Create a straight line and write the identified problem at the end of it. Then, create bones that capture items such as Man, Method, Machine, Materials.

For each branch write down any problems that go along with the topic. For instance, with “Man" you can list a shortage of personnel or a lack of training.

Fishbone diagrams are a simple tool that you can have some fun working with.

The Five Whys

Ask “why” until you get to the root cause. List your answers for each why and treat this as a living document.

Others can look at it and help determine if the true root cause is established.

You Might Need a Bit of Help

Fishbone diagrams and the Five Whys are very common root cause analysis tools, but if you have no experience with them, I suggest having someone with experience work with you.

The tools are easy to learn and use, but there is still a learning curve. It is nice to have someone with experience validate you're effectively identifying the root cause. Once you have the hang of it, you will find these tools fun to use (I do anyway).

Documentation

The purpose of a corrective action report is to provide a tool that simplifies the investigation and solution process in an efficient manner. These reports also provide documentation as part of an active safety management system. CARS verify that you are actively looking for safety concerns and addressing them.

If you are going for an ISO 18001 certification, CARs document your continues improvement of safety. For OSHA, they verify you are identifying and addressing safety concerns in a proactive manner.

Employee Involvement

The power of having a structured form is that anyone can fill it out. The form removes variation for information gathering and reaching a solution. Employees can take the CAR when they see a safety concern and fill it out. Leadership can help validate the root cause and verify the control measure is acceptable (and complies with agency regulations).

CARs and other safety tools can do much of the heavy lifting for us regarding identified safety concerns. I am a big fan of simplicity, and CARs provide a simple approach to addressing safety concerns. Without simple tools employees can use, safety concerns can wait and with time they become normal – they lose the sense of urgency to fix them.

(Learn about The Importance of Employee Engagement and Its Impact on Your Bottom Line.)

Corrective action reports are a great way to enlist employee engagement in a structured manner. Simplicity encourages engagement just as complexity discourages engagement.

Find a safety concern? Fill out a CAR.