Corrective Action vs Preventive Action: What’s the Difference?

Corrective and preventive actions are very important for ensuring workplace safety while also boosting productivity and efficiency. In this article, we dive into the similarities, differences, and benefits of corrective and preventive action so you can better determine when to apply them in your organization.

a manufacturing supervisor checking warehouse stocks to check whether to implement corrective vs preventive action on product returns

What is a Corrective Action?

Let’s start by looking at what corrective action is. Corrective action refers to the process organizations use to pinpoint errors and problems, determine the key cause of these issues, and apply a solution to fix the problem. These actions are usually taken after there’s a reported event, making corrective action reactive in nature. However, these actions can also be proactive due to the fact that teams dive deep into the root cause of a problem to find the solution and prevent future recurrence.

The key quality of a corrective action is that it always follows an incident. Whenever there’s a problem, accident, or anything that requires the attention of the team that happens, corrective actions must be applied. When applying a corrective action, it’s very important to take time to investigate all potential causes to ensure that you tackle the problem from the source.

Applying a corrective action can be a straightforward process. When a worker or inspector reports an issue, the first step of applying a corrective action is to determine the root cause of the issue and figure out a solution. Afterward, the team must monitor the situation to ensure that the action was effective.

What is a Preventive Action?

On the flip side, a preventive action is the process of identifying, anticipating, and mitigating potential problems. Instead of applying a solution after an incident, a preventive action aims to identify risks, analyze trends, and implement preventive measures to reduce the chances of these issues from happening, or, in the scenario that they do happen, lessen their impact. The main goal of these actions is to minimize the likelihood of a problem while also boosting efficiency and productivity.

The reason preventive actions are ideal for improving efficiency is that it helps prevent teams from encountering problems that may halt workflows and cost the organization a lot of money to fix. It’s important to apply preventive actions before starting operations to ensure that everything goes smoothly. 

That said, following preventive action steps can be fairly simple. To do so, organizations must first assess the different risks and potential problems that their workers may face. From there, they can develop preventive measures that reduce the chances of issues from occurring. Lastly, the team must monitor the situation at all times and ensure that workers are safe and that issues are kept at a minimum.

What’s the Difference?

While corrective and preventive actions are important for maintaining safety, productivity, and efficiency in the workplace, they are very different from each other. It’s important to understand the differences between these two actions to understand the most appropriate action for your specific situation. So, let’s take a deeper dive into the differences between these two actions to give you a more comprehensive idea. 

The Focus

To start, these two actions focus on different types of issues. A corrective action focuses on solving issues that the organization or team is already facing or has experienced. For example, if a worker reports a safety issue with a certain piece of equipment, it’s important to apply a corrective action to ensure that the team is safe throughout operations. That way, the safety issue doesn’t happen again because it was nipped in the bud.

On the other hand, preventive actions are more focused on ensuring that these issues never happen in the first place. This involves careful inspections and analysis of the workplace, potential risks that the team may face, and looking at various preventive measures to reduce the likelihood of these issues.

Reactive vs Proactive

Another thing that distinguishes corrective and preventive actions is their nature. A corrective action is reactive in nature because this is a reaction to an issue or problem that has occurred and was reported. Proactive actions are preventive in the sense that they are in place to prevent potential problems from arising or mitigate their impact should they occur.

Importance of Both

It’s important that your organisation and workflows include preventive actions to keep workers safe, product quality high, and boost efficiency. However, you may still encounter issues and problems even with proper preventive actions in place, which is why it’s important to establish a clear workflow for applying corrective actions as well.

Immediate Concerns vs Long-Term Solutions

Generally, corrective actions are used to address immediate concerns. The sooner the team gets down to the root cause of the problem, the easier it will be to apply a solution that completely eliminates the issue. A preventive action, on the other hand, is a long-term solution to minimize the likelihood of problems that your team may encounter.

Leon Altomonte
Article by
Leon Altomonte
Leon Altomonte is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. He got into content writing while taking up a language degree and has written copy for various web pages and blogs. Aside from working as a freelance writer, Leon is also a musician who spends most of his free time playing gigs and at the studio.