Why is it important to get the right category for a finding or a non conformance? Major or minor nonconformance matters!

Well, for certification purposes, I think it’s a very important issue. I have presented major nonconformities at several closing meetings. Until the issues raised has been properly addressed the certification process could not proceed. Appropriate corrective and preventive action had been put in place to deal with the issue.

Often this relates to a legal compliance issue. An example may relate to the fact that pressure vessels have not had their inspection. This means that the insurance associated with such equipment is not valid. I revealed this during a recent certification audit, but the measures put into place were swift and comprehensive. About 10 days was the delay in the certification process. A legal compliance issue usually relates to a major nonconformity, but other examples abound.


I raised a major nonconformity that related to the a waste skip issue. It contained swarf (metal turnings from the engineering sector). That swarf was dripping in cooling oil from the lathes where it arose. A large skip outside within a bunded area received the metal swarf containing the oily residue. At intervals of about 2 weeks, the person emptied the bund into a rain runoff gully using a pump.  “Have you got a consent to do this?” I asked, as the drain was assured to be a foul water drain. It turned out to be a surface water drain as I revealed by inspecting drainage maps. So I raised a MAJOR nonconformity.

Other issues often generate minor nonconformities, which means that the management system has broken down only in a localised area. I indicated on many different occasions that minor nonconformances won’t have a significant legal issue or environmental concern.
At least the business can then deal with the concern. If not, the minor becomes a major by default at the next certification audit. I have a way of escalating an issue if required.


I may identify a number of observations during an audit. Items may be reclassified these as findings at later audits. Observations act as items for discussion and consideration. The best organisations really do address these as though they are nonconformances.

Hope you enjoy these thoughts that explore issues relating to major or minor nonconformance. You can learn about this topic and much more by taking one of our courses.

Best Regards,
John Marsden (coming up for 20 years of certification audits – average of 100 days per year!) A lot of audit days.