Corrective & Preventive Actions Explained

A standard requirement for every ISO 9001 and ISO TS29001/APIQ1 quality management system is to have documented procedures for corrective and preventive actions.

Explanation: A corrective action is “REACTIVE” and a Preventive action is “PROACTIVE”.  Any action taken to prevent the reoccurrence of a nonconforming condition will always be a corrective action, not a preventive action.  This is because the action taken addresses a nonconforming condition that has already occurred.

A preventive action is “PROACTIVE”.  It’s an action taken to prevent a potential nonconformity or a nonconforming condition from occurring. Consider a preventive action as a form of risk management.  If an organization determines there to be a high probability for a nonconforming condition to occur and this potential nonconforming condition poses an unacceptable or unnecessary risk of loss to the organization, its customers or other stake holders, any action taken to prevent its occurrence would be considered as a preventive action.

A fairly common situation that I encounter during the development of quality management systems as well as while performing audits is the occasional Consultant, Auditor and organization QMS Management representative that does not understand the differences between a corrective action and preventive action.

This tends to perpetuate the spread of the misinformation that a corrective action and a preventive action are one of the same or worst yet, that preventive actions are just pie in the sky.

The definitions of corrective actions and preventive actions are provided in ISO 9000:2005, “Quality management systems, Fundamentals and vocabulary”.  In my opinion, it’s essential for every quality professional to fully understand the standard definitions of terms used in ISO 9001 and ISO TS29001/API Q1.  Operating without this basic information makes the responsibility of educating others that are not aware of the difference between a corrective and prevention action, all the more difficult.

Thanks for your continued interest and the comments.

ATCS, Q-Blog

Quality is 24/7/365

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