Lessons learned from other high-risk industries could improve patient safety in the operating room (OR). This review describes similarities and differences between high-risk industries and describes current methods and solutions within a system approach to reduce errors in the OR. PubMed and Scopus databases were systematically searched for relevant articles written in the English language published between 2000 and 2011. In total, 25 articles were included, all within the medical domain focusing on the comparison between surgery and aviation. In order to improve safety in the OR, multiple interventions have to be implemented. Additionally, the healthcare organization has to become a 'learning organization' and the OR team has to become a team with shared responsibilities and flat hierarchies. Interpersonal and technical skills can be trained by means of simulation and can be supported by implementing team briefings, debriefings and cross-checks. However, further development and research is needed to prove if these solutions are useful, practical, and actually increase safety.