Best Practices for building a causal factor chart

Following the best practices to build the causal factor chart will ensure effectiveness of the process.

The causal factor chart depicts the events leading to an incident or problem. The components of the chart are the main event or loss incident, preceding events, and conditions. What are the best practices for causal factor chart building?

Collecting data following the Best Practices for building a causal factor chart

Do not wait until you feel that you have all the information on hand to start creating the chart. Instead, start with what is available at the moment. The result will show the gaps between what you know about the incident and what happened. By helping you fill the blanks, the causal factor chart drives the data collection process.

There are various digital applications on the market to draw this chart. However, I strongly recommend starting to build it using sticky notes or drawing it on a whiteboard. This simple method will make it easier to fill in the blanks without adding more time.

Follow the best practices for building a causal factor chart to ensure it is clear and simple

Just like standard work, this tool needs clarity and simplicity. The starting point is the description of the incident itself. Define what is the situation under study. Describe the incident and each preceding event using complete yet short sentences. For clarity, use the 5W1H to define each block. In other words, name who, what, where, when, and how. Each block should contain only one idea, step, event, or condition.

To maintain the events description short and easy to understand, use one noun and one action verb.  If it fits, use quantitative explanations and timing to define the events.  

Best Practices to ensure the chart is complete and accurate

The construction of the causal chart includes several verification steps. It is a good practice to add the source of the collected data. Knowing from where it came facilitates going back and asking for further information. Sometimes, the data comes from observation or the result of data analysis. If that is the case, note the source as observation, data analysis, or other.

Any complementary information should be a separate block or part of the notes or appendix.  For instance, use acronyms or abbreviations to keep the statements short.  To make clear to everybody what each one means, include an appendix.

Following these best practices while building the causal chart will ensure the clarity of the events leading to the incident or loss. Moreover, it will facilitate understanding of those steps and how they interact to cause the situation. These two things will ensure more accurate corrective and preventive actions to stop recurrence. In addition will provide details of the investigation and analysis process, which is valuable when reviewing the case.

Causal factor chart, what it is and how does it help to solve problems?

Find the causal factors of a problem with a causal factor chart.

When trying to solve a problem, it is critical to grasp the situation first. A causal factor chart is a tool that provides a structure to find the possible causes. After we understand what is happening, we will know where we need to look and what information to collect. This step is critical to finding the root cause of a problem or incident.

What is a causal factor chart?

This chart or map is a graphical description of the sequence of events leading to a loss situation or accident. It describes those events and the conditions associated with them.

Causal factors are elements that, if removed, would prevent the occurrence or reduce its severity. The causal factor charting process provides a structure to organize and analyze the information collected. It is efficient to find the causal factors of safety and environmental incidents, where the timeline of the events is critical.

Components of a causal factor chart

Incident investigation requires identifying the preceding events and conditions that cause the situation under study.  This chart has three components, the main event or incident, preceding events, and conditions.

The starting point of the diagram is the main event or situation under investigation. A loss event or incident is any situation where the outcome and the expected result are not equal. In other words, the result is different from the standard. The preceding events are the sequence of actions that happen before the incident. Accidents rarely result due to one single factor. Instead, it is a group of events such as shortcuts, mistakes, and omissions. All these events lead to the incident or loss event.

The third component, conditions

Those events occurred because a set of conditions facilitates their occurrence. Conditions are those things that create the circumstances or ideal surroundings for the incident to happen. Some examples are the weather, equipment state, or a person’s state of mind.

How do you build a causal factor chart? That is the subject of a future post, but first, let’s discuss the best practices to create them.