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Root cause analysis: Essential elements

Root cause analysis (RCA) is a method of problem solving that is aimed at identifying the root causes of problems or incidents. It is based on the belief that problems are best solved by trying to correct or eliminate root causes and by directing corrective measures at these causes in hopes that the recurrence of the problem will be minimized. The analysis is done after the incident occurs.

The analysis must create a sequence of events to understand the relationship between the factors contributing to the problem, the root cause and the problem itself.

The problem is defined, data is gathered, and the root cause associated with the problem is identified. Actions that will prevent the recurrence of the problem are identified and then implemented. The recommended actions are then observed to ensure they are effective.

Basic elements of a root cause are divided into different categories with examples of each in parentheses.

  • Materials (defective raw material)
  • Man Power (lack of knowledge or skill)
  • Machine/Equipment (defective equipment or tools)
  • Environment (orderly workplace, physical demands of the task)
  • Management (poor management involvement, stress demands)
  • Methods (poor communication, practices are not the same as written procedures)
  • Management system (training or education lacking, prior identified hazards were not eliminated)