FTA stands for fault tree analysis, which is a deductive diagram that is used to visually depict where and how a production system may fail. FTA aims to map out the combination of human error and equipment breakdowns that may lead to an undesired event. It also helps to mitigate these mistakes before the end product reaches the customer—or, ideally, before a production process even begins. Potential failure should be identified as early on as possible in order to protect the consumer and the business from harm.
A fault tree analysis determines the root cause of a problem so steps can be taken to address the underlying, often hidden causes. It is known as a “top-down” diagram because the failure is identified first and put into the top level of the diagram. From there, the direct reasons for that failure are listed. Then, ask yourself which elements were a factor in these reasons. Each level is broken down further until you have listed every possible cause for the top-level failure. Once every potential cause has been identified, actions may be taken to mitigate the risk, prior to the beginning of the production process.
There are many reasons to complete a fault tree analysis, but FTA is most commonly applied when:
- A hazard analysis has highlighted a safety concern
- A new process is introduced
- There is a current process being used in a new environment
- A visual depiction of the process is more beneficial than a written analysis
As a visual approach, FTAs have proven to be invaluable in a wide variety of industries, especially in high-risk environments. In fact, these diagrams have been formally recognized by OSHA as an appropriate method for process hazard analysis. You can use FTA either as a stand-alone technique for mitigating risk, or as a supplement to other hazard analysis tools, such as FMEA. Any type of system is vulnerable to failure; FTAs help you reduce potential problems and determine proactive steps to protect the integrity of your products and your business.