Every day, problems are part of the workplace’s dynamics. Solving minor issues is indeed uncomplicated, but how about the major incidents impacting an organization’s safety, quality, and productivity? Unraveling the cause and applying accurate techniques like root cause analysis for assessing the issue takes more than time.

To address these problems and prevent them from continuing, any delegated organizational teams must learn and use root cause analysis techniques. This method can lead to a more productive, efficient, and safer workplace.

So, what is root cause analysis? How can an individual implement the understanding and have the practical experience to perform RCA analysis better? This article will cover everything you need to start your journey to gain the skill of RCA that is applicable to your workplace.

What Is Root Cause Analysis?

Root cause analysis, the process of discovering the root causes of problems in order to identify appropriate solutions, is a problem-solving method to uncover the fundamental reasons or sources of a problem or issue. Rather than merely addressing the symptoms, RCA involves a systematic approach to investigating and analyzing the root cause of a problem.

By doing so, RCA aims to prevent the problem from recurring. The RCA process typically involves collecting information, examining data, identifying potential causes, and implementing corrective measures.

Specific sectors, such as petroleum, petrochemical, engineering, electricity, and manufacturing, utilize RCA as a crucial tool to identify potential risks and prevent incidents from happening. These sectors have a high risk of accidents and failures since they deal with complex systems and mechanics on a daily basis.

The importance of approaching problems through technical complexity, environmental factors, and human faults makes RCA challenging but efficient. Identifying and resolving the root cause of problems can also enhance the quality and efficiency of their industrial activities.

What Is The Objective of Root Cause Analysis?

Aside from preventing problems and mishaps from reoccurring, RCA can benefit organizations with an in-depth understanding of how to address, mitigate, and finally get a learning process from the issues. Systematically blocking future accidents and drawbacks while reaping success is possible to achieve if the organizations carry out the correct way of RCA.

For instance, an explosion occurred at an oil refinery resulting in multiple fatalities, injuries, and damage to the equipment and surrounding areas. A root cause analysis can be a robust process to analyze the incident, such as interviewing witnesses, examining the incident details, reviewing the maintenance documents, and conducting a detailed assessment of the equipment involved.

The design failure triggering the explosion becomes the root cause. The RCA personnel could finally summarize and give recommendations to prevent the incidents from happening again.

What Are The 5 Steps of Root Cause Analysis?

a man is inspecting using root cause analysis approach
Root cause analysis (RCA) needs to be performed correctly (Credit: Freepik)

If the root cause analysis process is disorganized or unmethodical, the outcome may not be complete or precise. This may occur when the steps involved in the analysis are not in the correct sequence. Losing critical information can also happen due to disarranged RCA performance. To avoid low-quality results of RCA, pay attention to the five steps involved in root cause analysis below:

1. Identify and Define The Issue

This initial step entails defining the issue or problem that requires attention and outlining the issue’s extent and impact.

2. Gather Relevant Information

The next step is to gather all relevant data and information concerning the problem or issue, including past records, symptoms, and observations.

3. Identify Possible Causes

Employ techniques such as brainstorming or cause and effect diagrams to identify possible root causes of the issue based on the information gathered.

4. Analyze Collected Data

Analyze the gathered data using statistical analysis or process mapping tools to establish the most likely root cause(s) of the problem or issue.

5. Implement Solutions

After identifying the root cause(s), develop and execute appropriate solutions to address the problem or issue. Continuously monitor and adjust the implemented solutions to guarantee long-term success.

root cause analysis rca training course

What Are The 5P Approach of Root Cause Analysis?

However, these five steps should always pay attention to the 5P approaches. The 5P in RCA includes parts, positions, paper, people, and paradigms are explained down below:

1. Parts of the mechanics

The first approach involved in the incidents must be preserved.

2. Positions

In the next approach, positions are recorded in photos to have accurate access to incident conditions.

3. Paper

The third approach named paper symbolizes the latest inspection report and the company’s regulations regarding the matter.

4. People

People refer to those who are involved in the incidents (including the engineer, technician, and the last inspector assessing the safety).

5. Paradigms

Paradigms or perception of the issue.

Performing the RCA approach in the correct steps with the 5P fundamentals above can lead to accurate results in examining the root cause.

What Are The 5 Whys Approach of Root Cause Analysis?

For effective use of the 5 Whys method, it is crucial to adhere to a systematic approach. Here’s a detailed, step-by-step outline:

Step 1: Define the problem

Start by clearly defining the problem you want to solve and who it affects. Gather information, talk to people involved, and confirm the issue’s importance.

Step 2: Ask “Why?” until you find the root cause

Begin by asking why the problem occurred, then repeat the question for each answer you get. Keep asking “Why?” until you reach the root cause. For example:

  1. Why did the machine break down?
  2. Why was the lubricant insufficient?
  3. Why did the machine not get enough lubrication?
  4. Why was the system not corrected?
  5. Why did technicians not follow the manual?

By asking “Why?” multiple times, you can uncover the underlying causes. In this example, inadequate training for maintenance technicians emerges as the root cause.

Step 3: Analyze the root cause

Once you’ve identified the root cause, analyze it thoroughly. Consider possible solutions and seek input from others. Write down your findings to stay organized.

Step 4: Implement corrective actions

Based on your analysis, develop practical solutions to address the root cause. Make adjustments to prevent the problem from recurring in the future. This step turns your insights into tangible improvements, enhancing overall effectiveness.

Following these steps will help you effectively apply the 5 Whys approach to identify and address root causes of problems.

How To Improve RCA Quality?

Improving the quality of Root Cause Analysis (RCA) in high-risk industries like oil and gas, petrochemical, and energy requires careful attention to several key practices:

1. Focus on correcting and remedying root causes rather than just symptoms

Instead of addressing only the surface-level issues, delve deeper to identify the underlying reasons behind the problem. This ensures that solutions are effective and sustainable in the long term.

1. Exclude Involved Parties from RCA Sessions

It i crucial not to include individuals directly involved in an incident during the RCA process. Instead, conduct one-on-one interviews with them to gather information objectively. Invite representatives from relevant departments, such as engineering or operations, to participate in the RCA exercise to ensure a more impartial analysis.

Don’t ignore the importance of treating symptoms for short term relief. While it’s essential to address root causes, sometimes it’s necessary to alleviate immediate symptoms to prevent further damage or disruptions. Balancing short-term fixes with long-term solutions is key.

2. Focus on HOW and WHY Something Happened, not WHO Was Responsible

Avoid assigning blame and instead focus on understanding the processes and circumstances that led to the problem. This encourages a collaborative approach to problem-solving and prevents a culture of finger-pointing.

3. Frame Questions Based on Facts, Not Hypotheses

When questioning participants, avoid leading them toward predetermined conclusions. Focus on gathering factual information about equipment, procedures, and actions taken rather than suggesting potential causes.

4. Engage Industry Experts and Leadership

Ensure that physicians and key industry leaders are actively involved in the RCA process from the beginning. Their input and expertise can lead to more meaningful insights and sustainable process improvements.

5. Distinguish Between The Problem and The Cause

Shift the focus of the RCA from the adverse outcome to the actions or factors that led to it. For instance, in the case of a safety incident, identify specific actions or oversights that contributed to the incident rather than solely focusing on the outcome itself.

6. Provide Enough Information To Inform A Corrective Course of Action

Ensure that your RCA report includes sufficient details about the identified root causes and their implications. This helps stakeholders understand the problem and implement effective solutions.

5. Form A Diverse, Multidisciplinary Team

Assemble a team with representatives from various departments and disciplines, including those not directly involved in the incident. This diversity ensures a comprehensive analysis and brings different perspectives to light.

6. Rely on Documented Evidence for Timelines

Base timelines and sequences of events on reliable documentation rather than relying solely on personal recollections. Utilize records and data from operational logs, equipment readings, and incident reports to establish an accurate timeline of events.

7. Consider How A Root Cause Can Be Prevented (or replicated) In The Future

Use insights gained from the RCA process to develop preventive measures that mitigate the risk of similar issues occurring in the future. Additionally, consider how successful practices can be replicated to improve overall performance.

By adhering to these practices, you can enhance the effectiveness and reliability of RCA in high-risk industries, leading to more robust safety measures and improved operational efficiency.

What Are Some FAQ About Root Cause Analysis?

Let’s explore some frequently asked questions (FAQ) about this essential problem-solving technique.

How Do I Learn Root Cause Analysis?

Nowadays, almost every field of work needs an RCA approach. You can independently learn root cause analysis by following the guidelines and how-to discussed before. RCA is a critical skill to master, with many online resources available to self-learn.

However, biases and blind spots are hard to combat, as doing self-learning results in justifying subjective assumptions frequently. Taking RCA training, especially for those working in high-risk sectors, is the right first step in mastering this skill.

Root Cause Analysis Training Course by PetroSync offers a comprehensive and structured approach, relevant study cases, group discussion, and recognized certification for you to build your credibility in RCA. We can help you better understand how to apply root cause analysis to real-world problems. Reserve your RCA training spot and develop your problem-solving skills with PetroSync.

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