Unveiling the Secrets of Safety Investigations - A Comparative Analysis of 5 Why and Fishbone Analysis
Blog | July 11th, 2023

Unveiling the Secrets of Safety Investigations - A Comparative Analysis of 5 Why and Fishbone Analysis

In 2021, 5,190 workers suffered fatal injuries and 2.6 million suffered nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in the private sector. According to Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA), most worksite incidents are preventable and require the right preventive measures to be put in place. It requires a proactive approach to workplace safety, where safety leaders identify the real causes of incidents and take corrective and preventive actions (CAPA) to minimize damage and prevent recurrence.

Often, businesses react to an incident and may address the immediate cause. This may help in containing the risk for the time being, but the risk of a similar incident recurring remains. Therefore, businesses need to identify the root cause of the incident so that effective controls can be put in place. This makes incident investigation critical.

OSHA defines incidents as one of the following:

  • Fatality
  • Injury
  • Infections and illnesses
  • Near-misses

The aim of the incident investigation process is not to put the blame but to uncover the root cause. This will help in continuous improvement of the safety parameters, making the workplace safer and thereby improving employee engagement and increasing productivity. This will in turn result in enhanced brand reputation and accelerated growth.

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RCA Approaches: 5 Whys vs. Fishbone

Incident investigations should be a collaborative measure where workers from different functions come together to analyze the incident and identify the cause. This helps provide different perspectives that can expand the understanding of the situation and help uncover hidden hazards.

To go to the root of the problem, it requires the team to go beyond the obvious hazards and ensure that each cause is drilled down further to discover the underlying cause. This will also help identify the near misses that occurred in the past but were not reported or ignored. It will enable identifying trends and addressing frequently occurring problems on priority.

One of the popular methods used is called the ‘5 Why’ RCA. The question “Why?” is asked repeatedly for each answer to the question till it can be asked no further. Developed by Sakichi Toyoda, it helps the team to pursue each answer to the why question with another why. As a result, the multiple root causes can be uncovered and suitable controls identified and implemented.

For instance, if there is a machine breakdown, the answer to the first why could be:

  1. It was due for maintenance
  2. The worker using it was new and did not use it correctly

There could be other causes too. Each gets listed down and the why questions are asked for each of the reasons till it reaches its logical conclusion. The number 5 is only an example and not a rigid limitation.

The 5 Why method is popular because it is:

  • Simple to use and requires no great skills
  • It is effective as it allows the identification of the root cause
  • It is comprehensive as it helps to uncover relationships between different causes
  • It is flexible as it can be used alone or in combination with other methods such as Fishbone
  • It facilitates collaboration between different teams, thereby identifying all the root causes hidden in different functions that could have contributed to the incident’s occurrence

Another commonly used process is called the “Fishbone” diagram, which helps the root cause analysis team to

  • Brainstorm
  • Identify the possible causes
  • Sort them into categories

It helps to visualize the cause and effect using a Fishbone diagram and provides a structured approach. The head or mouth of the fish represents the problem or the result and the causes form the smaller bones stacked under different categories.

For the Fishbone diagram to be effective, it requires the team:

  • To define the problem statement
  • Define the major categories
  • Identify and discuss all possible causes of the problem
  • Continue asking the why for each cause and sub-cause and drill down till the root is reached

Both 5 Why and Fishbone facilitate the identification of the root cause. But even in the Fishbone approach, the effectiveness increases with the use of the 5 Why technique.

On the other hand, a 5 Why technique can be limited in its approach whereas the categorization of problems helps with greater in-depth analysis. Using the two together can empower the team to visualize and address the root cause more effectively.

ComplianceQuest EHS to Automate Safety Investigations and Identify the Root Cause

ComplianceQuest EHS is built on Salesforce and facilitates incident investigation as well as root cause analysis. It enables centralizing all incident data, near misses, safety observations, and investigations for implementing agile corrective actions. Furthermore, safety leaders can mitigate risks and prevent accidents by detecting hazardous trends using built-in analytics, predictive intelligence, dashboards, and mobile capabilities.

The Solution enables root cause analysis using the 5 Why approach by facilitating:

  • The assigning and managing of investigations
  • Standardizing of workflows
  • Tracking progress, activities, and results

The features of the Incident Investigation Software include:

  • Documenting Root Causes: The root and causal factors can be recorded with the 5 WHY root cause analysis feature that allows documenting the numerous root causes, attaching evidence, and capturing decisions as needed for the investigation.
  • Collaboration and Communication: It helps teams located in disparate geographies and sites to collaborate and communicate effectively.
  • CAPA: It also helps to assign corrective and preventative actions targeted to the causes.
  • Risk Management: Further, it facilitates the evaluation of risk(s), changes required, and monitoring of results.

To know more about ComplianceQuest’s Safety Incident Investigation Solution, visit: https://www.compliancequest.com/health-and-safety-incident-management-software/

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