It is increasingly being recognised that human factors can contribute to error in complex safety systems. Healthcare, however, has a long way to go before the promotion of training in, and awareness of, human factors will catch up with other high-risk organisations. A critical component that is deemed essential both for improving clinical performance and reducing medical error is situational awareness (SA). This is dynamic and can reduce quickly or be lost entirely, particularly when the workload is heavy. Tunnel vision, in which healthcare professionals concentrate on a single aspect of a patient's care, is just one example of reduced awareness that can be detrimental to safety. As in aviation and other high-risk organisations, a reduction in SA, if not recognised by individuals or the wider team, can lead to serious or potentially fatal outcomes. We therefore give an overview of SA and show how it can easily be reduced. We also suggest some simple but effective ways to improve it and in turn improve patient safety. We emphasise the importance of clinical teams looking out for each other, particularly in the operating theatre. Copyright © 2020 The British Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.