Corrective Action Program Best Practice 6 – Condition Report Causal Codes

StrategyDriven Corrective Action Program Article | Condition Report Causal CodesCondition reports provide detailed information on the organization’s performance deficiencies, operational events, and opportunities for improvement. That information, however, is typically captured in a voluminous long text format unconducive to the type of aggregate analysis providing insights to the underlying causes and precursor challenges required of proactive management action. Applying standardize, short text causal codes to condition reports helps overcome this analytical challenge.[wcm_restrict plans=”48861, 25542, 25653″]

Applying Condition Report Causal Codes

Condition report causal codes are commonly applied during two phases of the corrective action process. During the Initiation Phase when a condition report is first developed and reviewed, preliminary causal codes are applied based on the best available information. Problem causes at this point in the process, however, lack certainty because of the incomplete issue investigation and resolution actions. Therefore, causal codes are finalized during the Closure Phase once all activities are completed.

Initiation Phase causal codes are optionally applied by the condition report author; verified or applied by the reviewing supervisor; and verified by the condition report review committee. Closure Phase causal code finalization is performed by the manager or supervisor approving condition report closeout.

Common Causal Code Categories

While corrective action programs employ many difference types of condition report causal codes, four categories are foundational to any program:

How Discovered – Was the issue self-revealing, internally, or externally identified?

Purpose: Allows evaluation of whether the organization is proactive or reactive to issues and whether it is sufficiently self-critical. Some examples include:

  • Self-Revealing Event: Any ‘break-through’ failures in which equipment or programs made it obvious to personnel that an event had occurred. For example, if a valve was inadvertently left open and water spills on the floor when the system is turned on, the event is considered self-revealing. However, if the inadvertently left open valve was identified and corrected before the system was turned on such that water was not spilled on the floor, then event will is not considered to be self revealing.
  • Self-Identified: Any condition identified by the organization’s personnel, including contractors. For example, nearly all items identified during an equipment performance test are considered self-identified since the purpose of these tests is to identify discrepancies before they become problems.
  • Externally Identified: Any condition that is neither self-revealing nor self-identified is considered externally identified.

Impact Category – Did or could the issue directly result in a business unit or facility challenge or event?

Purpose: Identifies the severity of the issue, aids in the identification of issue significance, helps identify if additional action is warranted, and validates performance indicators. Some examples include:

Operational Impacts

  • Loss of 10 percent or more of production for more than 30 days
  • Unplanned facility outage
  • Planned facility outage extension of greater than 7 days

Cost Impacts

  • Greater than $750,000 loss
  • Greater than $150,000 and less than $750,000 loss
  • Greater than $50,000 and less than $150,000 loss

Equipment Failure

  • Unexpected equipment failure
  • Maintenance rework

Personnel Injury

  • Incident resulting in a fatality or permanent disability
  • Incident resulting in an OSHA Lost Work Day Case
  • Incident resulting in an OSHA recordable injury

Problem Category – Was the cause a process, people, or equipment problem?

Purpose: Allows statistical trending in major categories to determine if organizational performance is changing in any of these major areas.

Problem Type – What individual problem type (sub-tier of a Problem Category) occurred that resulted in the issue?

Purpose: Allows trending of expectations, behaviors, or equipment types causing issues.

Some examples of Problem Categories and sub-tier Problem Types include:

Worker Behaviors


  • Work Planning
  • Work Scheduling
  • Corrective Action



Additional Causal Code Categories

Mature corrective action programs leverage additional condition report causal code categories to expand the organization’s analysis capability. Applying these additional causal codes helps assessors gain deeper insight to underlying performance deficiencies; enabling proactive identification and resolution of issue precursors before an adverse outcome is realized. Common additional condition report causal code categories include:

Problem Causal Factor: What individual cause (sub-tier of a Problem Type) resulted in the issue?

Purpose: Allows trending of specific expectations, behaviors, or equipment failures causing issues.

Human Performance Precursors: What error precursors, such as weaknesses in recognition or implementation of human performance tools, directly resulted in the issue or did not prevent the issue from occurring?

Purpose: Allows trending of human performance issues, particularly the types of precursors that are occurring but may or may not be recognized.

Process: What specific process was involved or contributed to the issue?

Purpose: Provides data to determine recurring problems within a functional area or in a particular process.

Causing Organization: What organizational unit or workgroup was involved or contributed to the issue?

Purpose: Provides data to determine recurring problems within an organization or a particular group.

Key Words: Optional coding typically employed at the operational group or facility level.

Purpose: Provides flexible coding to uniquely code, track, and trend issues.[/wcm_restrict][wcm_nonmember plans=”48861, 25542, 25653″]

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About the Author

Nathan Ives, StrategyDriven Principal is a StrategyDriven Principal and Host of the StrategyDriven Podcast. For over twenty years, he has served as trusted advisor to executives and managers at dozens of Fortune 500 and smaller companies in the areas of management effectiveness, organizational development, and process improvement. To read Nathan’s complete biography, click here.

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