Definition - What does Root Cause mean?
A root cause is an underlying or fundamental reason for any failure of safety observance, accident or issues related to health, environment, quality, reliability and production etc.. Identifying root cause is essential for the managers to address and fix any existing problem or to prevent it from happening in the future.
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Safeopedia explains Root Cause
There could be more than one cause responsible for any failure or unwanted situation, but there would be a prime cause that leads to the final result while others are mostly catalysts or boosters to aggravate the situation.
A simple way of finding a root cause is by asking the question 'why’ a few times. The result of such whys may reveal a reason that may not have been addressed initially. Finding of a root cause could be an eye opener for management, but it is not easy to decide whether the root cause could be eliminated or the symptoms be treated individually. Very often, eliminating a root cause requires huge financial involvement or change in the process etc..
An example of root cause is given here. A manager finds an oily shop floor during the morning inspection. A machine was leaking. When asked, the supervisor informed the manager that the head gasket was changed a week ago, but it did not last long. The quality of the gasket was poor. It was purchased as the supplier was the lowest bidder and the company financial regulation says to accept the lowest bidder. The regulation was approved by the manager himself to save company money. So, the root cause was the company policy, and it needed to be modified.