Key points

  • The time has come to strengthen infection prevention and control capacity and capability by embedding human factors principles, methods, expertise and tools.
  • A root-and-branch review, through a human factors lens, of infection prevention measures could help develop interventions that work safely within the complex sociotechnical system that is healthcare.

In this paper, prepared on behalf of the Infection Prevention Society, the authors discuss the application of human factors principles within infection prevention and control activities – up until now a largely unexploited area.

The necessity to prevent harm and death from avoidable infections has received significant attention during the last decade and many of the conventional weapons in the patient safety armoury have been used with good effect, for example root cause analysis (RCA) for investigating meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteraemia.

Human factors approaches have been addressed in a piecemeal manner within infection prevention and control, with some interesting examples, mainly centred on checklists. However, this has tended to take place in a vacuum and has not been as transparent as it might have been in order to inspire others to consider such an approach. The engagement of leading human factors and ergonomics experts, and the piecing together of the science of human factors alongside conventional infection prevention thinking, has not been systematically addressed for health care.

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