A Guide to ISO Non-conformance


ISO non-conformance is the failure to meet one or more of the requirements outlined in management standard criteria. Whether it’s the ISO 9001 Standard or the ISO 14001 Environmental Standard, a non-conformity comes in many different forms. So, it’s important to know what measures to implement when you come across any.

Non-conformities can be detrimental to the running of your business. Failure to be vigilant and highlight areas that are disrupting the procedures and processes of a business can have negative consequences.

Knowing how non-conformities are applied and what to look for across different management standards is essential to ensuring high standards and quality of deliverables are maintained across your business. To help keep you updated, we’ve compiled this extensive guide that covers all there is to know about non-conformance. So, take a read and we’ll ensure you’re an expert in non-conformity by the end of this guide!


What are ISO non-conformances and how to check for them?

To put it simply, a non-conformity occurs when a process doesn’t fulfil its intended purpose. This could be a failure to follow procedures outlined in the specified ISO Standard, and subsequently, this may impact the customer experience and lead to negative feedback. This is why collating feedback from your customer base is important, so you can review and tweak processes where fit to close any gaps.

The procedure you deploy to combat non-conformance will vary depending on the structure and type of business you have. We recommend that you follow a three-step methodology to eradicate non-conformity.

  • Identify specific areas within the business that may be suffering or at risk of non-conformances. Maybe there are communication issues within certain sections of the business, or a refresher of training procedures is required.
  • Address the root cause of the issues you have highlighted by taking the appropriate actions necessary to fix any problems.
  • Reviewing the process of identifying issues and the corrective actions taken is an essential step to widen the scope of scrutiny of your business as a whole. You may discover other areas that can be improved to ensure non-conformance isn’t an issue later down the line.

Discover much more about what non-conformities are and how you should address them in our blog post below.

Non-conformities – what are they and why do we need to check for them?


Major and minor non-conformances

Non-conformances can occur from time to time, it’s natural and it happens! There may be an oversight in training records as a one-off occurrence, but if it is recognised and rectified, it won’t cause much upset to your business operations. However, failure to spot this and a build-up of the same issue can invite bigger problems – this is the difference between a minor and a major non-conformance.

Minor non-conformances

Minor non-conformances should be minimised where possible. An invoice mistake is classified as a prime example of a minor non-conformance. But, should the same errors keep cropping up, then you risk a major non-conformance, which can signify a failure in your business operations as a whole.

Major non-conformances

A major non-conformance is what every business owner should try and avoid, as it can have a detrimental impact on your business. It may be a lack of thorough procedure reviews throughout the business, leading to a drop in overall standards. Perhaps training modules haven’t been updated and are now not sufficient for your business. Regardless of what the major non-conformance is, complete avoidance of them is critical to the success of your business.

Do you want more insight into the differences between minor and major non-conformances? Then check out our blog post below!

Major or minor: what are the differences between non-conformances?


Taking corrective action against ISO non-conformance

From time to time, businesses will face issues and there will be mistakes that arise. When looking at each ISO non-conformance-related mistake or issue in isolation, it’s important to remedy it with appropriate ISO corrective action. So, why’s it needed? Without a good corrective action procedure, non-conformances can go undetected, and as we know, this invites further problems for your business!

Resolving issues means saving time and money, and who doesn’t want to ensure that their business is running efficiently? Whilst an ISO correction is an action enforced to swiftly eliminate a non-conformity, an ISO corrective action ensures there’s no repeat of a non-conformity once resolved.

ISO corrective action procedures are designed to scrutinise processes within your business and determine a permanent corrective action plan to suitably alter any procedures.

Find out more about how to take corrective action against ISO non-conformance with our in-depth blog post.


What is the cost of ISO non-conformance?

As we have explored in our guide so far, regular instances of non-conformance can beset your business and hamper its progress. Frequently perusing your business procedures will help identify trends and limit the impact. Failure to do this and the consequences could be costly.

The reputation of your business may suffer if your product offering isn’t what it used to be and customers are left feeling unsatisfied by the experience you have provided. Content customers are the bedrock of a successful business. This maintains and enhances sales, and has a positive knock-on effect on the reputation of your business. The two go hand-in-hand, so it’s important to streamline procedures to best serve your customer base.

Equally, your ISO certification may be retracted if you continue in failing to meet the criteria set out in your particular Standard. This may have a far-reaching impact if ISO certification is essential to work within your specific industry.

Discover more information about the cost of ISO non-conformance in our blog post here.


Finding and resolving non-conformities with ISO 9001

As far as management tools go, ISO 9001 is the pinnacle – a globally-adopted management Standard that businesses from far and wide use to drive better results and standards for their business. Set out in the ISO 9001 Standard are the compliance guidelines for non-conformance. Clause 10.2 of the Standard refers to non-conformities and corrective action, outlining the need to evaluate and action to prevent non-conformance.

Adhering to the ISO 9001 Standard improves your business undoubtedly, as it helps cement a solid foundation for your company procedures.

Would you like further detail about this? Then check out our blog post below and discover all the things ISO 9001 non-conformance related:

5 steps to finding and resolving ISO 9001 non-conformities.


Common ISO 45001 non-conformities

Each different ISO Standard has its own individual framework relevant to the sector it represents. ISO 45001 represents the Standards for Health & Safety, ensuring businesses have the right policies and safety precautions in place that safeguard their employees. ISO 45001 helps to identify any gaps in your Health & Safety procedures. Below are some examples of common non-conformities ISO 45001 helps to eradicate:

  • Communication of Health & Safety measures
  • Implementation of an adequate compliance register
  • Definition of an occupational Health & Safety policy
  • Frequent management reviews
  • Sufficient risk assessments

Below, our handy blog post that contains lots more detail about the non-conformities ISO 45001 can help identify.

Ten most common non-conformities of ISO 45001.


Common ISO 14001 non-conformities

As business practices become ever more focused on sustainability, the ISO 14001 Standardhelps businesses identifywhere improvements should be made. The priorities of customers and clients mean that businesses adopting eco-friendly policies are favoured. ISO 14001 helps businesses highlight environmental failings such as:

  • Correct documentation of environmental procedures
  • Perform environmental management reviews
  • Implement compliance log and record correspondence
  • Effectively manage customer complaints about environmental issues

If you’re still a little unsure about the wider ISO 14001 framework, then don’t worry. Our blog detailing the ten most common non-conformities of ISO 14001 will ensure you’re fully briefed with all the essential information you need.


Common ISO 27001 non-conformities

ISO 27001 is the Standard that protects the integrity of your information and security management. As technology evolves, your business will require stringent security measures to ward off any threat of cyber breaches and tighten the security of your online network. The purpose of ISO 27001 is to pinpoint any areas where there is a level of security risk. Here are a few examples:

  • Process for monitoring information security risks
  • Robust recruitment process that ensures accurate candidate selection
  • A business continuity plan that references the information security processes
  • Adequate recording of information security failings

Why not discover more about the benefits of ISO 27001 in our blog post below.

Ten most common non-conformities of ISO 27001.


Let us help you with your ISO certification

At Citation ISO Certification, we create a bespoke management system that works for your business to help growth and compliance. ISO certification is important to strengthen procedures within your business, maximise customer satisfaction and help you increase revenues.

The ISO certification process we offer is simple and cost-effective. One of our specialist consultants will spend some time with you carrying out a gap analysis to document existing processes and make recommendations based on their observations in a report, which you can view using the Atlas ISO platform.

As one of the UK’s leading ISO certification bodies, we’re renowned for helping businesses establish improved processes and procedures. Ultimately, we’ll help you secure more contracts and success when bidding for work.

That sounds like a winning formula, right? Well, we’re here to get the ball rolling for you and your business. Simply request a quote today, or contact our friendly, professional team directly at 0333 344 3646. Let Citation ISO Certification get your business ISO certified!

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About the author

  • Name:

    Serena Cooper

  • Company:

    Citation ISO Certification

  • Bio:

    Serena has worked for Citation ISO Certification since 2022, writing creative and informative content on ISO certification and consultation to help businesses reach their potential.


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