Patient safety is typically assessed by the frequency of adverse events or incidents, which means we seek to determine safety by its absence rather than its presence. The Safety-II perspective aspires to overcome this paradox by bringing into focus situations where safety is actually present, that is, in everyday work that usually goes well.
Central to Safety-II is the notion that, in complex systems such as healthcare, safety is a consequence of collective efforts to adapt to dynamic conditions and uncertainty, rather than the natural state of a system where nothing untoward happens. This type of thinking has been met with significant interest and enthusiasm in healthcare, because it feeds increased appreciation for the fact that healthcare workers continuously ensure that most patients receive safe and high-quality care in challenging circumstances.
However, despite its appeal and potential, significant challenges remain for the fruitful interpretation and application of the Safety-II perspective in healthcare, which could give rise to misinterpretations, misuse and a missed opportunity for the potential enrichment of quality and safety practices in healthcare.