Leadership Development Program 2 > Module 5: Safety Leadership & Culture > Safety Indicators, Controls and Eliminating Fatalities



We spend much of our time looking in the rear-view mirror at data, lag indicators and investigating incidents that have already occurred. We can prioritise and quickly find time to conduct incident investigations. But what about finding the time to identify and prevent incidents, particularly when it comes to preventative actions to control and eliminate fatalities?


Section 3 is designed to:

  • Refresh your knowledge of key risk management terminology (see below definitions);
  • Update your knowledge on lead and lag indicators to support the shift from reactive to proactive safety leadership and culture;
  • Build your understanding of critical controls and manage unwanted events.

To maximise the session on the 24th of March, led by Mark Thompson, please complete the below readings prior to the session.

ICMM guidance on Ohs indicators

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ICMM guidance on Critical Control Management

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Review definitions and terminology:

Leading indicators … are conditions, events or measures that precede an undesirable event and that have some value in predicting the arrival of the event, whether it is an accident, incident, near miss or undesirable safety state. Leading indicators are associated with proactive activities that identify hazards and assess, eliminate, minimize and control risk” (Grabowski 2006:8)

Lag indicators … Measure the extent of harm that has occurred – past performance. Reactive, tells you whether you have achieved the desired result (or when a desired safety result has failed) and provide historical information about health and safety performance

Bowtie analysis (BTA)

An analytical method for identifying and reviewing controls intended to prevent or mitigate a specific unwanted event.


A brief statement of the reason for an unwanted event (other than the failure of a control).


A statement describing the final impact that could occur from the material unwanted event (MUE). It is usual to consider this in terms of the maximum foreseeable loss.


An act, object (engineered) or system (combination of act and object) intended to prevent or mitigate an unwanted event.

Unwanted event

A description of a situation where the hazard has or could possibly be released in an unplanned way, including a description of the consequences.


Critical control

A control that is crucial to preventing the event or mitigating the consequences of the event. The absence or failure of a critical control would significantly increase the risk despite the existence of the other controls. In addition, a control that prevents more than one unwanted event or mitigates more than one consequence is normally classified
as critical.

Critical control management (CCM)

A process of managing the risk of MUEs that involves a systematic approach to ensure critical controls are in place and effective.


Something with the potential for harm. In the context of people, assets or the environment, a hazard is typically any energy source that, if released in an unplanned way, can cause damage.


 Material unwanted event (MUE)

An unwanted event where the potential or real consequence exceeds a threshold defined by the company as warranting the highest level of attention (e.g. a high-level health or safety impact).

Mitigating control

A control that eliminates or reduces the consequences of the unwanted event.

 Preventing control

A control that reduces the likelihood of an unwanted event occurring.


The chance of something happening that will have an impact on objectives. It is usually measured in terms of event likelihood and consequences.

Verification activities

The process of checking the extent to which the performance requirements set for a critical control are being met in practice. Company health and safety management systems might use a variety of terms for “verification” activities. Common terms include audit, review, monitoring and active monitoring. 

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