Failure Mode & Effects Analysis (FMEA) Definition | EcoOnline US
Health & Safety Glossary

Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA)


What is Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA)?

Failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA), or commonly known as failure modes, is a method that involves evaluating various systems and components to identify how a failure might occur.

Failure mode and effects analysis also involves assessing the potential causes of such failure, and the effect it may cause. After conducting a failure mode and effects analysis, companies record their findings in a FMEA worksheet.

How to Conduct a Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA)

There are various types of FMEA analyses that are carried out nowadays, including functional, process, and design FMEAs. Companies primarily use forward logic and reasoning to identify various components that may fail in a system, and then assess its impact and reasons for failure.

Before conducting a FMEA, there are some standard rules that companies often specify, indicating the materiality of the failure (not all component failures may significantly affect operational performance).

Other core rules include:

  •       Conducting an analysis when all inputs are at normal levels
  •       Adequate functioning power is available
  •       Systems should be working optimally at the time of failure
  •       Failure modes cannot exist simultaneously

Depending on the nature of the organisation, companies can decide whether to conduct a qualitative analysis or whether to use mathematical models, such as indicating the probability of failure for each component identified.

A team of professionals, often including reliability engineers, then carefully assess operational systems to identify various components that are susceptible to failure. They identify potential causes of failure, and then list down the impact it may cause.

After the FMEA worksheet has been filled, the organisation can use the information to make informed decisions and improve overall systems reliability.

The Key Components on a FMEA Worksheet

There are certain important points that must be filled out by those conducting the analysis.


One column on the sheet is used for indicating the probability of failure. This is important, as certain components have a higher chance of failure than others. By indicating just how likely a failure mode is likely to occur, companies can better prepare and identify steps to mitigate the risks.

For instance, certain machine components need to be replaced regularly due to increased wear and tear. As a result, their probability of failure is obviously going to be higher.

Companies can use this information to ensure they have spare parts available and to take steps to mitigate wear and tear and prolong the useful life of such components.


The severity of a failure indicates just how badly it may affect operations. For instance, if the severity is high, certain machines may incur full loss of specific functions, or it may result in significantly poor performance.

Severity on a FMEA worksheet is listed from numbers 1-5, with 1 being the least severe (marginal or no impact) and 5 resulting in complete operational failure.   


This indicates how the failure will be detected, including the processes to carry out and the overall time duration required to detect a failure. This makes it easy for the organisation to plan for maintenance schedules.

In case of multiple failures, this information can be used to identify any dormant systems that may have failed, including those with redundancies in place.

During a FMEA analysis, it’s important for reliability engineers to specify how certain failure modes can be detected, including the processes to carry out and any tests to conduct.

Like severity, detection can also be graded on a scale of 1-5, with 1 indicating maximum certainty of detection and 5 denoting the risk that the fault isn’t detected at all.


Often calculating by multiplying severity with probability, the overall risk level indicates the threat of failure and the effect it may cause. It’s often denoted in a criticality matrix.

Creating an Action Priority List

After the FMEA analysis is complete, the company then creates an action priority list. This includes considerations of failure modes with a high risk of failure and severity.

There are several steps that the company can take to reduce risk:

Eliminate or Mitigate Failure Mode

Reliability engineers can look at various techniques to eliminate the failure mode or mitigate the impact its failure is likely to cause.

Improve Process Capabilities

Another method is to improve process capabilities by either increasing the tolerance or implementing stricter process controls.

Improve Organisational Controls

Detecting failure modes early can reduce the severity. This is possible by improving organisational controls, such as creating refined evaluation or inspection techniques to ensure nothing is missed.

Use EcoOnline to Conduct Comprehensive Failure Mode and Effects Analyses

EcoOnline’s Health & Safety software makes it easy for organisations to conduct a failure mode and effects analysis. It allows them to standardise their approach towards risk management, build checklists, and accurately record the results of inspections.

From tracking events and analysing the impact of a specific failure mode, EcoOnline empowers reliability engineers and organisations by providing a seamless, cloud-based solution to record findings and take action.