Although concern for patient safety is inherent to the practice of the health care professions, its transformation into a specific body of knowledge is relatively recent and thus patient safety may be considered as a comparatively new discipline. Its main objectives are to avoid the occurrence of preventable adverse events (accidents, errors and complications) associated with health care and to limit the impact of inevitable adverse events. Despite these simple definitions, patient safety is multifaceted, quite complex in nature and includes many key elements. Thus, it cannot be simply defined as the provision of safe health care or the protection of patients from harm by health care providers because there are economic, fiscal, social, cultural and organisational aspects of a patient safety climate. It is essential for all health care practitioners and health care organisations to become more familiar with the general context of patient safety, to actively participate in efforts to implement patient safety measures in daily practice and to establish a patient safety culture.