Safety Culture

Current Projects

Safety culture in air traffic control

Project leads: Dr Kathryn Mearns and Christianne Laing


IPRC is currently working with EUROCONTROL, the regulator for European ATM, on a study whose aim is to enhance and improve safety culture throughout air traffic control centres across Europe.  The primary aim of this research is to build a knowledge base, identifying pan-European safety culture issues, in order that any lessons learned can be disseminated across European ATM centres.  This research utilises the combined approach of an initial questionnaire survey (completed remotely), followed by in-house workshops. 

This project is funded by EUROCONTROL (2009 – 2012).

Completed Projects

Determining the factor structure of safety culture across European Air Navigation Service Providers

Christianne Laing


The aim of this MRes project was to develop a valid and reliable safety culture questionnaire, that attempts to ascertain what factors people consider most important when considering the status of safety within their organisation.  This was achieved by conducting factor analysis on questionnaire datasets derived from questionnaire surveys involving 1435 ATM personnel across four European traffic control organisations using principal components analysis. 

System strengths and weaknesses in surgery

Project leads: Dr Steven Yule and Jill Wilkinson

The aim of this project was to collect data from major colo-rectal surgical cases to devise a framework for measuring systems failures in surgery. These are failures which are embedded in the system (e.g. organisational factors), and can potentially lead to the occurrence of errors during an operation. A minute by minute account of cases was conducted, with interactions between the surgeon and the rest of the team recorded. The condition and diagnosis of the patient was also taken into account as well as the level of training and experience of all team members.  The results indicated that system factors included: the team, the task, organizational policies, the individual, the work environment and the patient.  Using this data a systems observation tool was developed.

Funded by the Royal College of Surgeons.


Systems observation tool


In preparation.

Safety culture in Scottish hospitals

Cakil Sarac, School of Psychology

Recent concern regarding the safety of patients in healthcare systems has resulted in the adoption of safety management techniques used in high-risk industries. One method is the use of safety culture questionnaires to survey workforce perceptions and attitudes towards safety which have demonstrated the influence of organizational factors on safety outcomes. In the current study, a national safety culture questionnaire was used to assess safety culture in seven acute hospitals during 2009.  A total of 1966 clinical staff completed a questionnaire that included the Hospital Survey on Patient Safety Culture. The main aim of the study was to develop an appropriate safety culture measure for hospitals and to use it to identify the organizational strengths and weaknesses related to safety culture within the sample of Scottish hospitals.  Culture factors where staff were less positive related to the organizational level, such as perceptions of staffing levels, senior management culture, commitment to safety as well as safety behaviours, safety outcomes and handovers across hospital units.

This PhD project was funded by the Scottish Funding Council (2007-2010).


Sarac, C., Flin, R., Mearns, K. & Jackson, J. (2011). Hospital survey on patient safety culture. Psychometric analysis on a Scottish sample. Quality and Safety in Health Care,20, 842-848.

Sarac, C. (2011). Safety climate in Scottish acute hospitals. PhD thesis. University of Aberdeen.

Jackson, J., Sarac, C. & Flin, R. (2010). Hospital safety climate surveys: measurement issues. Current Opinion in Critical Care, 16, 632 – 638.