Error culture: Swiss Federal Council in favour of sector-specific regulations

Nuclear power plants, hospitals or aeroplanes become safer when operators learn from mistakes. Employees should therefore be able to report mistakes without necessarily having to fear negative consequences. However, such a reporting system would have to be adapted to the respective safety-relevant area. The Federal Council does not consider an error culture as a general principle in the legal system to be appropriate as it writes in its report on a postulate from the Council of States recently adopted.

The basis for the Federal Council’s report was the postulate submitted by the Legal Affairs Committee of the Council of States (RK-S) entitled “Redlichkeitskultur im Schweizer Recht” (Just Culture in Swiss Law), which instructs the Federal Council to examine how an error culture might be introduced as a general principle in Swiss law for areas relevant to high security. Employees should be able to report safety-relevant misconduct without necessarily having to fear negative consequences such as criminal prosecution, loss of professional licence or loss of job.

According to the Federal Council’s report, regulations that legally anchor error cultures exist today mainly in civil aviation. In other areas, there are only a few (public transport, nuclear energy) or no regulations at all (military aviation). According to the Federal Council’s press release, a survey of the circles concerned showed that in principle there is a need to promote an error culture. The report also shows that the fundamental principles of the legal system must be respected. This includes safeguarding the interests of victims and ensuring equal treatment of accused persons in criminal prosecution.

The concept of error culture is also most developed abroad in aviation, especially in the EU. In the health sector, some states also have legal regulations. However, none of the states studied has introduced a general mechanism to protect employees from negative consequences, especially prosecution, when reporting errors. Due to the different regulated reporting systems and needs, the Federal Council concludes that an error culture should not be anchored in the Swiss legal system as a general and overarching principle but rather implemented as a sector-specific regulation, which could improve safety in high-security areas

These are the upcoming dates for our Annual General Meetings:

Thursday, 21 March 2024
Thursday, 20 March 2025