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Root Cause Analysis (RCA)

Last updated: May 11, 2017

What Does Root Cause Analysis (RCA) Mean?

A root cause analysis (RCA) is a part of a problem solving process used to examine and determine the root causes or core reasons of any failure of safety observance, accident or issues related to health, environment, quality, reliability and production etc.. A root cause analysis determines the definite underlying causes, which can be identified and be solved by the management. RCA is essential for determining corrective actions to be taken for preventing any unwanted event and betterment in the future.

Safeopedia Explains Root Cause Analysis (RCA)

There are many methods of RCA. A few common ones include:

  • Events and causal factors charting - identifies sequence of events with conditions
  • Change analysis - a six step process that compares the event with and without problems side by side
  • Barrier Analysis - traces barriers and how these caused failure or how these were compromised
  • Tree Diagrams - such as, Ishikawa fishbone diagram, management oversight and risk tree analysis (MORT), human performance evaluation system (HPES) - tree branch like charts those based on predefined faults
  • Why why chart - a brainstorming method. Five why is a five step brainstorming activity
  • Pareto Analysis - a statistical approach based on Pareto principal that 80% problems are caused by 20% causes
  • Storytelling method - a very simple investigation process
  • Fault tree analysis - a quantitative causal diagram used to find out the possible failures
  • Failure modes and effect analysis - finds criticality and operability score ratio and effects of failure
  • Reality charting - it is similar to why/ why and a cause and effect chart is used for analysis

An RCA has four phases:

  1. Collection of information and data - information and data collection is the vital part of a root cause analysis and needs a lot of time for gathering and sorting. It can continue during the recording phase of already gathered information
  2. Recording causes - after collection of information and data these need to be recorded and organized
  3. Analyzing or Identifying the root cause(s) - organized information is then analyzed by various methods
  4. Recommendation - recommendations are established based on the findings of the analysis. One has to be aware from being biased by the most visible cause while the others may remain hidden

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