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Whenever something goes wrong in the workplace, especially if there’s a safety accident or injury, it’s critical to get to the root of what happened. Of course, there is more than one way to conduct a root cause analysis, one of which is the 5 Why Methodology. The 5 Why Method is essentially asking “why” over and over again until you arrive at a clear answer. But if only it were that simple to perform. Let’s take a closer look at the 5 Why template and how to use this method for performing a root cause analysis.
No matter what methodology is being used for a root cause analysis, the first step is always to define the problem. Unless there is a clearly defined problem, it’ll be impossible to define the root cause and ultimately find a proper solution. Whether there was a serious incident that led to the discovery of the problem, or the root cause analysis is being performed for a different reason, the process starts with defining the exact scope of the problem. Otherwise, you won’t know the right questions to ask or arrive at the right answers.
In addition to defining the problem, the 5 Why Methodology requires the right team. Ideally, this will be a cross-functional team whose members have a diverse set of knowledge. There should be people from all areas of the company who bring different expertise and a different perspective to the group. This will allow you to attack the issue from every possible angle while also finding the answers to any potential question. Ultimately, the 5 Why Methodology is all about being able to answer questions. Therefore, you need a team in place that you know will be able to answer any question that gets asked during the process.
With the problem defined and the team assembled, it’s time to start asking questions. As the name implies, during the 5 Why Methodology, the question “why” should be asked at least five times. You don’t want to ask too many questions or go far beyond five because that can complicate things. Equally important, make sure you are sufficiently answering each question before moving on to the next. Ideally, the answer to one question will lead you directly to the next question. Most importantly, make sure that all the answers to your “why” questions are supported with facts and data. If you can’t support your answers this way, you won’t get the answers that you need to find the root cause.
After arriving at the root cause, don’t forget to consider multiple solutions to the problem. Even if there is just one root cause, which isn’t a guarantee either, there could be more than one way to address it. This is another reason why a diverse group of team members is ideal. Employees with different perspectives can help to determine what solutions have the best chance of working. It’s also possible for different employees to explore different solutions at the same time.
Of course, no matter what root cause you find or solutions you want to explore, it’s crucial to monitor and document the implementation of those solutions. Even with the 5 Why Methodology, there is no guarantee that you’ll find the right solution on your first try. But by closely monitoring any changes you make, you can identify if the changes you made are working and whether your team needs to go back to the drawing board.
Obviously, the 5 Why Methodology can be useful in helping to improve workplace safety if you discover a problem. But at the same time, it’s good to be proactive by utilizing the safety management software from EHS Insight. Our software helps to stay ahead of safety issues by managing all elements of workplace safety on one platform so that accidents are easier to prevent.
If your company can benefit from a proactive approach to workplace safety, call us anytime and we will help you create a safer workplace.
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