What Is a Corrective Action - a Definition
A corrective action is a risk management process, tool or activity used to correct any undesirable element of an aviation service provider's operational system. Most commonly, the term "corrective action" is used loosely to represent "corrective actions and preventative actions," or CPAs. You may also see corrective actions called CAPAs (corrective action preventative action) or RCAs (recommended corrective actions), though CPA is the most recognized acronym globally in the aviation industry.
Regardless of what they are called, corrective actions are used to implement changes of the “corrective” type during reactive risk management processes. Corrective actions change the current state by making changes that bring an undesirable scenario or situation into an acceptable level of risk or reduces risk to as low as reasonably practical (ALARP).
Related Aviation Risk Management Articles
- All Corrective Preventative Actions Not Created Equal: Initial Mitigating Actions
- Tips Tying Corrective Action Preventive Action to Hazard Register
- Difference between Reactive, Predictive and Proactive Risk Management in Aviation SMS
Corrective actions differ from:
- Preventative actions, which are used to include a elements into the aviation safety management system (SMS) in order to reduce the likelihood of undesirable risk events (which may not have happened yet); and
- Detective actions, which are used to include elements into the SMS in order to identify emerging undesirable conditions.
Corrective actions are generally considered as a part of reactive risk management activities. Having effective corrective action implementation strategies is absolutely essential to the development and success of the aviation SMS implementation. Furthermore, an effective SMS will possess the ability for managers to easily track and monitor corrective actions to ensure the corrective actions:
- Are completed on time;
- Mitigate the risk for which they were designed; and
- Are properly documented for future review.
Process for Creating Corrective Actions
Corrective actions typically originate in the following reactive risk management work flow:
- A safety incident is reported and safety mangers are notified;
- A preliminary investigation, risk analysis and risk assessment are performed;
- Based on the assessment and investigation, the responsible manager will determine the safety issue's root causes;
- Based on these findings, he/she will issue corrective action(s) to employees or third party stakeholders in order to correct the problem(s);
- The person(s) assigned the corrective action(s) will perform whatever duties are required to fulfill the corrective action(s) and notify management of the completed state; and
- The responsible manager will either accept or reject the CPA's performance until the corrective action(s) are complete – at this point the CPA is considered to be implemented.
As shown above, corrective actions are almost always triggered by some kind of safety event. But as pointed out, while corrective actions are part of reactive risk management this does not mean that corrective actions are “lesser” than, say, a proactive action such as preventive or detective. Corrective actions become risk controls designed to return operations a state of acceptable risk.
One thing we need to keep in mind:
First and foremost, an aviation SMS needs to be able to quickly and efficiently fix problems as they arise. These mitigation strategies are your aviation SMS' corrective actions.
Related Articles on Aviation SMS Mitigation Strategies
- The 5 Risk Mitigation Strategies in Aviation SMS
- Difference between Proactive and Mitigative Risk Controls in Aviation SMS
- 4 Ways to Mitigate Risk in Aviation Safety Management Systems
Examples of Corrective Actions
Corrective actions can be duties focused on correcting an individual's behavior, or correction of the aviation SMS population in general. Corrections of individuals are commonly things like:
- To attend remedial aviation SMS training;
- To review company policy and procedures; or
- Probation, performance reviews, etc. (usually in more serious circumstances).
Corrections of the SMS in general would be things like:
- Updating a safety policy or procedure that has lost relevance;
- Replacing a malfunctioning/old piece of equipment, sign, etc.; or
- Fixing an area of non-compliance in the SMS.
Final Thought: Skills and Tools for Managing Corrective Actions
Corrective actions are implemented and managed much in the same manner as small projects. Managers with strong project management skills will have an advantage implementing corrective actions:
- Within required time frame (i.e., by assigned deadline);
- With available tools; and
- To the fullest potential – i.e., smooth implementation.
Beyond project management skills, other tools that are helpful are simple tracking tools to monitor:
- Which CPAs have been assigned to whom;
- CPA deadlines; and
- CPA status.
For larger operators that manage many safety concerns, managing corrective actions in the aviation SMS is best performed using integrated aviation SMS databases. Aviation SMS databases have industry-accepted risk management workflows and automated notifications when corrective actions are overdue.
Regularly monitoring SMS performance is a responsibility of every accountable executive and their safety team. Corrective actions completed on-time are one of the core SMS performance indicators that every SMS should be monitoring. Monitoring the status of corrective actions in spreadsheets is not sustainable when using spreadsheets or disjointed or isolated point solutions. This is the advantage of using an SMS database to manage and monitor corrective actions.
Monitoring safety performance is a great way to keep tabs on which corrective actions may be needed to maximize safety performance.
Published February 2017. Last updated September 2019.