What are the Steps of a Corrective Action Plan?

Posted by
Lance Roux
on Feb 27, 2022

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A corrective action plan is something that your organization is likely to need at some point, whether due to an accident or an audit that finds your existing procedures lacking. How do you develop an effective plan that addresses existing safety concerns and communicates new expectations to your staff?

To answer these questions, let’s look at what exactly a corrective action plan should aim to do, and how to develop and implement one in your organization.

what is a corrective action plan?

A corrective action plan (CAP) is a set of steps devised to fill the gaps in your organization’s existing safety procedures and compliance. Once a safety concern has been identified and brought to your attention, a corrective action plan should be designed to address the root causes of the issue.

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Often, CAPs are borne out of safety audits that find and spotlight existing concerns in the workplace. However, they may also be developed in response to faulty or damaged machinery, an injury or accident, or any other unexpected event that your company needs to adapt to. Corrective action plans keep your organization responsive to employee concerns and demonstrate a commitment to compliance with safety regulations.

how to develop a corrective action plan

As you work to address an issue with your CAP, you will want to keep your scope narrow and clearly outline the additional responsibilities and results you are introducing. Keep it SMART:

  • Specific goals are easier to work toward and remain accountable for. To address the issue, what should be done, by whom, and in what time frame? What does successful implementation look like?
  • Measurable criteria are essential for your team to know if any progress or additional intervention is needed. 
  • Achievable CAPs avoid unrealistic expectations. Keep in mind your team’s abilities and set yourself up for success.
  • Realistic steps are more likely to be taken, while overly ambitious plans may be forever postponed or ineffective, hampering your ability to respond to the root issue that caused your need for a CAP in the first place.
  • Timely deadlines turn a CAP into a reality. Set a start date and, if relevant, an end date to your intervention.

Keep these SMART goals in mind as you follow these steps to develop an effective and efficient corrective action plan.

1. Examine the Safety 

If your corrective action plan results from an audit, you will likely already have a clear definition of what the problem is. If not, your first step should be to examine the root cause of the issue and why it exists. Make sure that everyone involved in enacting the CAP understands this concern and why you must address it.

2. Create Action Steps

Once you know exactly what the problem is, decide what needs to be done to correct the issue and ensure it doesn’t reappear in the future. If machinery is at fault, repair or replaces it. If there are gaps in contractors’ knowledge or skill, they may need to undergo more safety training. Keeping your SMART foundation in mind, these steps should be clearly outlined and understood, with the goal of having a measurably safer outcome.

3. Understand Why

Whatever rules or procedures your corrective action plan entails, it is more likely to be followed if employees understand the reasoning behind it. It will also be more beneficial in the long run if everyone involved in drafting the CAP is aiming for the best overall solution and practice, rather than a quick fix to the issue at hand.

4. Designate Location for Action Steps

It may seem rather basic to outline where action steps take place, but doing so ensures that all of your team members are on the same page and that new procedures integrate seamlessly into the rhythm of your workplace.

For example, if a series of training is needed, employees should know where they will be happening. If a piece of equipment needs repairs, space should be given to accommodate those repairs and employees should know how to complete their jobs in its absence. In most cases, a CAP shouldn’t feel disruptive to existing employee routines, and designating physical space for action steps allows employees to reshape their routines as needed.

5. Create a Timeline

Just as you need to allocate space for action steps, it is imperative that you also set a timeline. While you may need to be flexible in some cases, any safety concerns should be addressed as soon as possible, and you should ensure that you are satisfying compliance regulations when addressing any issues discovered during an audit.

Related Content: 11 Reasons You Should Conduct Regular Safety Audits

There is always the possibility that OSHA will conduct a surprise inspection while you are in the middle of taking Corrective Action, and a thoroughly written CAP with a timeline can be crucial documentation to demonstrate where you are in the remediation process.

6. Assign Responsibilities

A plan is worthless unless it is put into action. Assigning responsibilities ensures that there is accountability on-site and that everyone who needs to take corrective action is able to do so.

Assigning responsibilities also gives you a clearer idea of how far-reaching your corrective action plan is, as well as who it impacts at your organization. Do all contractors need to undergo additional training or just specific team members? Is a certain procedure acceptable in one context and not in another, and are the appropriate employees aware of the distinction?

7. Monitor & Adjust as Needed

As time passes and the early stages of your CAP have been implemented, be aware of its impact and possible improvements that your team can make. You may realize that you need more time, different action steps, or a completely new approach if the problem persists.

As you continue to address the root issue, make sure you also look for green flags that show how your CAP is improving things. Stay on the lookout for red flags, as well, such as inefficient procedures that hamper productivity or are difficult to follow. A good CAP doesn’t create problems, it solves problems. Make sure that you’re happy with the outcome of your corrective action and make changes if you’re not.

final thoughts

Don’t let safety issues or concerns go unaddressed. Listen to your employees, monitor your worksite, and conduct an audit if you feel that an area needs a closer look. Whether third-party or internal, audits are a great way to find potential issues before they become accidents and injuries. By keeping your approach to corrective action plans SMART and following the model above, you will be able to keep your workplace responsive, responsible, and ready for the job.


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Tags: Safety Management, Safety Audits, Workplace safety, Corrective Action Plan

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