The Power of Critical Control Management in High-Risk Industries

Prevent accidents, protect assets, and foster a culture of safety by implementing critical control management within the organization.

workers exhibiting critical control management

What is Critical Control Management?

Critical Control Management (CCM) is a systematic approach used by organizations to identify, assess, and manage critical operational risks that could potentially endanger people, the environment, and the business. An ongoing process throughout the organization’s lifecycle, CCM starts at the planning and design phase of activities, continues through the implementation, and ends by evaluating the controls’ effectiveness.


A fundamental element of comprehensive risk management, CCM is essential across industries, especially in high-risk ones, such as oil and gas, construction, aviation, chemical manufacturing, and mining. Here are some specific reasons for its efficient deployment.

  • Reduce or Eradicate Safety Incidents – In the mining industry, there are numerous unwanted events to watch out for, including underground fires, dust explosions, and exposure to chemicals. By proactively identifying hazards and risks, companies can prevent and promptly mitigate incidents, injuries, and environmental damage.
  • Comply with Regulations – Industry standards and government regulations set the framework in which organizations must operate. By establishing critical controls, they can align their processes and steer employee behavior toward regulatory expectations.
  • Save Costs – Aside from paying expensive fines due to non-compliance or negligence, downtimes, environment clean-ups, and litigations cost a lot of money. By establishing different types of critical standards in management control, organizations can save funds appropriated for legal expenses and spend them on operations.
  • Enhance Business Reputation – When the company demonstrates a strong commitment to robust risk management, the community where they operate and the general public will find them trustworthy and credible.

Key Components

Critical control management comprises several components that are integral to its success. The International Council on Mining and Metals offers a 9-step guide on establishing an effective CCM to enhance mining safety.

  1. Process Planning – The foundation of an effective CCM implementation, the first step defines resources, timelines, and responsibilities based on the project’s objectives. Establishing communication channels across departments is also essential during the planning phase.
  2. Major Unwanted Event (MUE) or Risk Identification – MUEs that could harm people or damage the organization’s assets and the environment should be identified and prioritized.Underground collapse is a common MUE in mining operations. Engineers and geologists should conduct comprehensive risk assessments like historical data analysis and geotechnical surveys to evaluate the risk.
  3. Control Identification – Every MUE determined should have corresponding mitigation measures, establishing a proactive approach to risk management.To prevent adit or shaft collapse, managers could include regular ground stability assessments, barring and scaling for loose rocks, and construction of pillars or shotcrete as reinforcements.
  4. Critical Control Selection – Based on the safety measures listed, managers should create a hierarchy of controls and prioritize to ensure proper resource allocation. Consider factors like feasibility, reliability, and potential impact.
  5. Performance and Reporting – This step defines performance criteria, enabling the business to measure the effectiveness of its critical controls. Generating reports is also a must since it ensures transparency and accountability to relevant stakeholders.
  6. Assigning Accountability – Every department and specific team member should know their roles and responsibilities. Aside from fostering ownership and accountability, companies can implement, monitor, and maintain critical controls effectively.Risk assessment and mitigation, particularly in industries fraught with risks, does not just fall on one department. Concerning potential tunnel collapses, geotechnical engineers conduct ground stability checks, maintenance teams handle reinforcement, and safety officers are responsible for setting up signages on site.
  7. Site-Specific Implementation – Tailor the risk control measures to every operational site since they have unique characteristics and risks. There is no one-size-fits-all critical control, and it is vital to consider factors such as geography, infrastructure, and operational processes to enhance effectiveness.Fuel bays and storage sites are most at risk for fires and explosions. Transport and haulage teams are susceptible to collisions, vehicular overturns, and debris-related incidents. Quarry machine technicians are exposed to injuries when inspecting or repairing conveyor belts, earthmovers, and hoisting equipment.
  8. Verification and Reporting – To ensure that critical controls are implemented and sustained, managers should conduct evaluations through continuous monitoring, routine inspections, and audits. The results should also be communicated to the stakeholders.
  9. Response to Failure or Inadequate Performance – Even the best-laid plans could fall short of expectations. However, having a ready solution can help frontline workers respond to incidents, mitigating consequences and minimizing harm and disruption to operations.

With reference to tunnel collapses, managers should cease operations in affected areas until appropriate measures, such as additional reinforcement, are implemented.

The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) standard can be modified depending on the industry the business operates in or the specific hazards and risks the company may face. It is best to be familiarized with the concept, allowing seamless integration into the organization’s daily workflows.

CCM Integration Into Operational Process

Integrating critical control management into operational processes requires a strategic approach and collaboration across departments. Here are some strategies and best practices that will help companies accomplish this:

Acquire Complete Participation from Corporate Leaders

Support from top management is vital in the successful implementation of CCM. Leaders should demonstrate commitment by providing the necessary resources (e.g., people, funding, and technology) for various initiatives.

Resistance to change has always been an issue when workflows need adjustment. However, when top managers endorse the program and lead by example, they can motivate the frontline workers, expect full cooperation from them, and foster a culture of safety and accountability throughout the organization.

Increase Cross-Functional Collaboration

Communication and teamwork play a significant role in CCM. Companies operating in high-risk industries need to categorize tasks and delegate each to specific departments. However, all should work towards a single goal, which in this case is upholding safety. Here are some best practices:

  • Create a centralized platform where employees can share ideas, delegate roles, and assign tasks. Aside from reducing miscommunication, clear communication channels also prevent duplicated efforts.
  • Hold regular cross-departmental meetings to discuss goals, track progress, and ensure alignment.
  • Recognize the unique skills of each department, highlighting their successes especially when they work with other teams.

Aim for Continuous Improvement

Adopting a continuous improvement mindset is crucial for enhancing the effectiveness of critical controls over time. On top of improving a safe work environment and refining risk mitigation measures, this enhances operational efficiency and, consequently, revenues for the company.

  • Establish a systematic approach to evaluating the effectiveness of the controls, such as the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PCDA) cycle.
  • Regularly measure and monitor progress by reviewing performance metrics, conducting audits and inspections, and promptly investigating near-misses and other safety incidents.
  • Encourage employees to provide feedback on critical controls. Frontline workers are the ones directly executing the established measures and can make better recommendations for improvement.

Fully Engage Employees

The involvement of employees in developing and implementing critical controls ensures its success. Not only does this foster ownership and accountability, but it also increases their commitment to following procedures and maintaining a safe work environment.

Acquiring feedback from the field (e.g., criticisms, suggestions, and recommendations) is an effective technique to increase employee participation. When workers are empowered to speak up and voice their opinions, they will be able to contribute more.

Developing targeted training programs is even more valuable. When employees understand their roles and responsibilities, the company can achieve CCM implementation success. Here are some best practices:

  • Develop customized, site-specific training programs that address the risks for every department or work area.
  • Document training sessions to ensure active participation and compliance with regulations.
  • Regularly review and enhance the program to ensure it complements new hazards, the latest technology, and updated laws.

Leverage Technology

All of the best practices mentioned, from ensuring collaboration by utilizing a central communication platform to delivering training can be accomplished efficiently with the help of software solutions and automation tools.

  • Digital checklists are helpful when conducting risk assessments, cross-departmental inspections, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) checks.
  • Issue-tracking capabilities help workers resolve near-misses and safety incidents capably and promptly.
  • Robust analytics provide valuable insights into the efficacy of critical controls, aiding managers in better decision-making.
Eunice Arcilla Caburao
Article by
Eunice Arcilla Caburao
Eunice is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. A registered nurse, theater stage manager, Ultimate Frisbee athlete, and mother, Eunice has written a multitude of topics for over a decade now.