High reliability organisations

November 2011

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Key points

  • The key characteristics of high reliability organisations include:
    • complex high risk environments
    • consequences of error would be serious
    • collective mindfulness across organisation
    • positive safety culture
    • continuous improvement
    • learning culture
    • highly trained and well-rewarded staff
    • creative ways to cope with errors
    • regular checks
    • redundancy of processes
    • flexibility to deal with change.

High reliability organisations are organisations that work in situations that have the potential for large-scale risk and harm, but which manage to balance effectiveness, efficiency and safety. They also minimise errors through teamwork, awareness of potential risk and constant improvement.

This evidence scan collates empirical evidence about the characteristics of high reliability organisations and how these organisations develop within and outside healthcare.

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