If it doesn't prevent a non-conformance, is it a preventive action?

cubix rube

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Can we count actions taken to prevent a negative occurrence - which may NOT be an actual non conformance - as preventive actions? For instance, we have recently posted hand-washing tips in our bathrooms, hand sanitizer dispensers around the office, etc., in an effort to minimize spread of germs (corona-virus) that may cause increased absenteeism, or worse, that would clearly affect our ability to meet customers demand for products. We can track effectiveness through our absenteeism rates, and comparing fluctuations to trends related to the epidemic of the day, etc. Having team members get sick and miss work is not a non conformance, so is this a preventive action as described in the standard?
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Jim Wynne

The standards are pretty clear. Preventive action is action taken to prevent the cause of a potential nonconformity. You can't rationally link the possibility of illness with the possibility of nonconformities happening because of it. There are too many layers of what-ifs. Additionally, I question the possibility of evaluating effectiveness. There are too many variables that can contribute to absenteeism.


Super Moderator
There's also the stray meteor that could hit, as well as flood, earthquake, or many other disaster's that could cause absenteeism. How about the grief caused by the loss of a cricket match, game of marbles or domino's?

Jim is totally correct, you're stretching way out of reason, you'd be much better placed looking at real tangible improvement or potential problems.


Trusted Information Resource
A non-conformity starts from conformity. Conformity is defined through specifications that provide some assurance that claims are met.
Unless an essential claim of your product (not of your business!) is that the product will (need to) be there, the reduced availability of product is not a non-conformity. Also note that 'need' is different from 'want'. We Always hope that there are more customers that want our product, and everything we make is sold as as soon as possible. But that is a want-demand. A need-demand has commitments between you and your customer.

Counter-examples are:
  • If you are in a Just-In-Time industry, and your contracts stipulate you commit to deliver certain amounts in time, then yes you are taking preventive actions. If you monitor and take further measures you might head into contigency action territory.
  • If you have a claim of availability of supply which customers really really really rely upon, i.e. vitality supporting medical device consumables, yes you are taking preventive actions (against an identified risk in your risk management file hopefully).
You are in automotive, which can be JIT, but it might not be the case.


Trusted Information Resource
You can do anything you want. But as you see from the responses, your auditor might not agree. If one of your objectives is 100% on time delivery, and that requires manpower, then taking steps to minimize the effects of the flu, etc. is a good idea. It certainly can be considered preventive. Good luck.

Jim Wynne

There's a very old joke that seems apropos here. A man tells his neighbor that he's invented a device that will keep wild elephants away from his house. The neighbor says, "But there isn't a wild elephant within 10,000 miles of here." The inventor responds, "See, it works!!"


Change Agent and Data Storyteller
Super Moderator
We appear to discussing "causation versus correlation."

Your organization, @cubix rube , may see a correlation between proper hand hygiene and absenteeism rates, the latter of which might have an impact on your production numbers, but is there a causal relationship between hand hygiene and absenteeism?

To be fair, I don't think anyone here can answer that question for you since we are not privy to your pre-hand hygiene data nor your post-hand hygiene data. Maybe it will have an improvement for your organization whereas it would not for another.

If you want to prove that than your organization's hand hygiene initiative has had the desired results, you'll need that data. No data and, well, maybe absenteeism rates decreased because oranges went on sale at the grocery store and everyone has plenty of Vitamin C coursing through their system. And if the rate doesn't change, then, it's likely the initiative hasn't had the impact your organization was hoping for.

And if the rate remains the same or gets worse...well...I have to ask...has your organization had a discussion with the actual folks who contribute to the absenteeism rate? Has there been an effort to understand why folks don't show up? Is it always because they're sick? Or are they "sick?" On the flip side, has there been an effort to understand why people actually show up? What drives them? Can something be gleaned out of that to help inspire others?

Jim Wynne

In order to establish a causal relationship between two phenomena you have to be able to reasonably control all of the variables, which is clearly impossible in a case like this. For example, how can you control hand-washing or other prophylactic measures once employees go home? How can you control for infection from all possible sources?


Can we count actions taken to prevent a negative occurrence - which may NOT be an actual non conformance - as preventive actions?
I would have to say no. Preventive action would be anything you do to prevent a potential non-conformity. Washing hands and relating to absenteeism seems like a very low correlation. However... studying work stations and implementing solutions to reduce reported repetitive stress injuries may be a little more plausible.

If you need some preventive actions to document, maybe take some of your procedures and analyze for how many times judgment decisions are made. See if there are methods you could minimize the subjectivity in those decisions.
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