Rethinking healthcare as a safety-critical industry

Robert Lwears*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


The discipline of ergonomics, or human factors engineering, has made substantial contributions to both the development of a science of safety, and to the improvement of safety in a wide variety of hazardous industries, including nuclear power, aviation, shipping, energy extraction and refining, military operations, and finance. It is notable that healthcare, which in most advanced societies is a substantial sector of the economy (eg, 15% of US gross domestic product) and has been associated with large volumes of potentially preventable morbidity and mortality, has heretofore not been viewed as a safetycritical industry. This paper proposes that improving safety performance in healthcare must involve a re-envisioning of healthcare itself as a safety-critical industry, but one with considerable differences from most engineered safety-critical systems. This has implications both for healthcare, and for conceptions of safety-critical industries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4560-4563
Number of pages4
Issue numberSUPPL.1
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Health care
  • safety


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