Table 1

Explanation of causal factors categories

Main categorySubcategoryCodeDescription
Latent conditions
TechnicalDesignTDFailures due to poor design of equipment, software, labels or forms
ConstructionTCCorrect design, which was not constructed properly or was set up incorrectly
MaterialsTMMaterial defects
ExternalT-exTechnical failures beyond the control and responsibility of the investigating organisation
OrganisationalTransfer of knowledgeOKFailures resulting from inadequate measures taken to ensure that situational or domain-specific knowledge or information is transferred to all new or inexperienced staff
ProtocolsOPFailures relating to the quality and availability of the protocols within the department (too complicated, inaccurate, unrealistic, absent or poorly presented)
Management prioritiesOMInternal management decisions in which safety is relegated to an inferior position when faced with conflicting demands or objectives. This is a conflict between production needs and safety. Example: decisions that are made about staffing levels
CultureOCFailures resulting from a collective approach and its attendant modes of behaviour to risks in the investigating organisation
ExternalO-exFailures at an organisational level beyond the control and responsibility of the investigating organisation
Active errors
HumanKnowledge-based behaviourKnowledge-based behaviourHKKThe inability of an individual to apply his/her existing knowledge to a novel situation
Rule-based behaviourQualificationsHRQAn incorrect fit between an individuals training or education and a particular task
CoordinationHRCA lack of task coordination within a healthcare team in an organisation. Example: an essential task not being performed because everyone thought that someone else had completed the task
VerificationHRVThe correct and complete assessment of a situation including related conditions of the patient and materials to be used before starting the intervention
InterventionHRIFailures that result from faulty task planning and execution. Example: washing red cells by the same protocol as platelets
MonitoringHRMMonitoring a process or patient status. Example: a trained technologist operating an automated instrument and not realising that a pipette that dispenses reagents is clogged
Skill-based behaviourSlipsHSSFailures in performance of highly developed skills. Example: a computer entry error
TrippingHSTFailures in whole body movements. These errors are often referred to as “slipping, tripping or falling”. Examples: a blood bag slipping out of one's hands and breaking or tripping over a loose tile on the floor
ExternalH-exHuman failures originating beyond the control and responsibility of the investigating organisation
ViolationsVFailures by deliberate deviations from rules or procedures
Other factors
Patient relatedPatient-related factorPRFFailures related to patient characteristics or conditions, which are beyond the control of staff and influence treatment. Example: communicative skills, treatment compliance
OtherUnclassifiableXFailures that cannot be classified in any other category—eg, complication, abstain policy, rare disease
  • Descriptions (except for “violations”) are derived from Van Vuuren et al12 and Van der Schaaf and Habraken.13