Safetip #52: Root Cause Analysis During an Incident Investigation
OSHA and EPA Urge Employers to Conduct a Root Cause Analysis
A recent fact sheet stresses that both OSHA and EPA encourage employers to conduct a root cause analysis following an incident or near miss at a facility. The fact sheet defines a root cause as “a fundamental, underlying, system-related reason why an incident occurred that identifies one or more correctable system failures”.
Employers covered by OSHA’s Process Safety Management (PSM) standard must investigate incidents that resulted in, or could have resulted in, catastrophic releases of highly hazardous chemicals. In addition, owners or operators of facilities regulated under EPA’s Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations must conduct incident investigations.
During an incident investigation, factors that contributed to the incident must be determined. However, OSHA and the EPA urge employers to go beyond the minimum investigation required and conduct a root cause analysis, the fact sheet says. A root cause analysis helps to identify underlying or systemic causes of an incident, rather than generalized or immediate ones. An immediate cause, as opposed to an underlying or systemic cause, may point to a symptom of the problem, and not to the problem itself.
Root Cause Analysis Prevents Incidents More Effectively
By addressing root causes identified during a root cause analysis, organizations are better able to prevent similar incidents from happening again, thus reducing risks of occupational fatalities and injuries, as well as risks of environmental harm.
By using root cause analysis to prevent incidents more effectively, companies can avoid costs associated with business interruption, emergency response and clean-up, litigation, audits and inspections, and OSHA or EPA fines.
Rather than spending money to correct the immediate causes of an incident, it is better to spend money to correct underlying system management failures identified during a root cause analysis, thus focusing on prevention, which improves safety and leads to lower insurance premiums.
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