Corrective Actions – preventing recurrence pays off

Preventing recurrence in the past has always been about ‘eliminating the cause of the non-conformance. This always pays off, not just in improving profits, but improving morale as well. Nobody feels good at work waiting for the same problem to repeat itself because we didn’t eliminate the cause.

These notes appeared in the ISO 9001 Final Draft International Standard (FDIS), but didn’t make to the final release.

The Corrective Action section of ISO/FDIS 9001:2015 had a twist on this idea. After 27 years of insisting that we find the cause of a non-conformance and eliminate it, TC 176 took a new slant on this requirement.

All four previous versions of this standard, and the other popular standards (ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001) use this language at the core of the Corrective Action clause:

“The organization shall take action to eliminate the causes of nonconformities in order to prevent recurrence.” (ISO 9001:2008, 8.5.2), and “… evaluating the need for action to ensure that nonconformities do not recur…” (ISO 9001:2008, 8.5.2 c).

ISO/FDIS 9001:2015 had taken a profoundly different approach, in my opinion. The ‘shall’ requirements still talked about eliminating the cause, but the authors had left out the phrase ‘…to prevent recurrence…’

And here’s the big news – check out these notes that appeared at the end of clause 10.2.1…

NOTE 1: In some instances, it can be impossible to eliminate the cause of a nonconformity.
NOTE 2: Corrective action can reduce the likelihood of recurrence to an acceptable level.

It will certainly be better for our organizations to eliminate a cause when we can. But these notes allow for the possibility that sometimes, we just have to settle for ‘good enough for now’. To me, this is a more practical approach and most likely approximates what most of us do now, anyway.

PLEASE NOTE: These ‘notes’ did not make it into the final version. I still think they are worthwhile considering, though.

By the way, be sure to send along any questions, comments or topics you’d like to see us tackle.