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Latent Error (or Latent Condition)

e terms "active" and "latent" as applied to errors were coined by James Reason.(1,2) Latent errors (or latent conditions) refer to less apparent failures of organisation or design that contributed to the occurrence of errors or allowed them to cause harm to workers. For instance, whereas the active failure in a particular adverse event may have been a mistake in programming a logic controller, a latent error might be that the institution uses multiple different software code, making programming errors more likely. Thus, latent errors are quite literally "accidents waiting to happen."

 Latent errors are sometimes referred to as errors at the "blunt end," referring to the many layers of the safety management system that affect the person carrying out the task. Active failures, in contrast, are sometimes referred to as errors at the ?sharp end,? or the personnel involved in the performance of the task.


  • Reason JT. Human Error. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press; 1990.
  • Reason J. Human error: models and management. BMJ. 2000;320:768-770.
  • From website: Patient Safety Network, PSNet



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