The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) urge employers (owners and operators) to conduct a root
cause analysis following an incident or near miss at a facility.1 A root cause is a
fundamental, underlying, system-related reason why an incident occurred that
identifies one or more correctable system failures.2 By conducting a root cause
analysis and addressing root causes, an employer may be able to substantially or
completely prevent the same or a similar incident from recurring.
A simple, yet effective, way to identify root causes of an incident is to use the “Five Whys” method. In their fact sheet on root cause analyses, OSHA offers a helpful illustration of the “Five Whys” technique.
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