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Recent reports on patient safety in healthcare point to the high frequency of treatment errors. This study suggests a new theory of safety climate and brings empirical evidence that helps explain the occurrence of treatment errors. Four safety climate dimensions have been identified. They include employee perceptions of the suitability of the organization’s safety procedures for their daily work, employee perceptions of the frequency and the clarity of the safety information distributed by the organization, the way employees interpret their managers’ safety practices, and the perceived priority given to safety within the organization. The study was conducted in 21 medical units in a general hospital and the results were cross-validated in 15 units in another hospital. Results demonstrated that perceived suitable safety procedures and frequent and clear information flow reduced treatment errors only when managers practiced safety and through their influence on the level of priority given to safety within the unit. Implications for safety climate theory and for reducing the occurrence of treatment errors by safety interventions are discussed.

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