Root Cause Analysis for the Twenty-First Century: Lessons from the Port of Beirut Explosion

The Event

On August 4, 2020, just after 6:00 pm, a fire that had been burning at a warehouse at the port of Beirut turned into a cataclysmic explosion that devastated the city, killing more than 200 people and injuring approximately 6,500. According to a team of researchers from Sheffield University, the blast—which caused at least 15 billion dollars in damage and devastated the Lebanese economy—is one of the largest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded.

The fundamental root cause of the explosion was the accidental detonation of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a chemical compound used in fertilizer production that was stored in the warehouse. However, this explanation neglects the complex interaction of events that led to both the fire and the subsequent explosion.

The Investigation

In November 2020, Legal Action Worldwide (LAW), a non-profit organization that provides access to legal resources for victims of disaster and violence around … Read more...

Root Cause Analysis and the Tools You Need to Drive Continuous Improvement

Root Cause Analysis is part of an ecosystem of tools and techniques you can implement to help your organization harness the value from their EHSQ integrated management systems. Improving your organization’s processes requires identifying a methodology and approach that can spur innovation through evidence-based analysis.  

Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is one of several methodologies in your toolkit – including Failure Mode Effects Analysis (FMEA), Control Plans and Corrective Actions (CAR or CAPA) – that can be used to uncover the reasons for safety incidents or near misses, occupational health issues, environmental issues like repeated violations and quality events like recalls and nonconformances. Implementing a framework that incorporates multiple analysis tools to achieve a desired outcome can result in measurable results.  

Top Five Tools for Continuous Improvement

These tools can be extremely valuable for performance when used proactively — and in conjunction with one another. Here’s how they might be used together:   

  1. Identify potential failure modes through a Process Failure Mode Effects