The meaning of justice in safety incident reporting

Soc Sci Med. 2008 Jan;66(2):403-13. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2007.08.013. Epub 2007 Oct 18.


Safety experts contend that to make incident reporting work, healthcare organizations must establish a "just" culture-that is, an organizational context in which health professionals feel assured that they will receive fair treatment when they report safety incidents. Although healthcare leaders have expressed keen interest in establishing a just culture in their institutions, the patient safety literature offers little guidance as to what the term "just culture" really means or how one goes about creating a just culture. Moreover, the safety literature does not indicate what constitutes a just incident reporting process in the eyes of the health professionals who provide direct patient care. This gap is unfortunate, for knowing what constitutes a just incident reporting process in the eyes of front-line health professionals is essential for designing useful information systems to detect, monitor, and correct safety problems. In this article, we seek to clarify the conceptual meaning of just culture and identify the attributes of incident reporting processes that make such systems just in the eyes of health professionals. To accomplish these aims, we draw upon organizational justice theory and research to develop a conceptual model of perceived justice in incident reporting processes. This model could assist those healthcare leaders interested in creating a just culture by clarifying the multiple meanings, antecedents, and consequences of justice.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Medical Errors / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Models, Organizational
  • Organizational Culture*
  • Risk Management / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Safety
  • Social Justice*
  • United States