The Safety Checklist concept has been an integral part of many industries that face high-complexity tasks for many decades and in industries such as aviation and engineering checklists have evolved from their very inception. Investigations of the causes of surgical deaths around the world have repeatedly pointed to medical errors that could be prevented as an important cause of death and disability. As a result, the World Health Organisation developed and evaluated a three-stage surgical checklist in 2007 demonstrating that complications were significantly reduced, including surgical infection rates and even mortality. Together with the results from other large cohort studies into the utility of the surgical checklist, many countries have fully implemented the use of surgical checklists into routine practice. A key factor in the successful implementation of a surgical checklist is engagement of the staff implementing the checklist. In surgical specialties such as our own it was quickly seen that there were many important omissions in the generic checklist that did not cover issues particular to our specialty, and thus the European Association for Cardio-Thoracic Surgery embarked on a process to create a version of the checklist that might be more appropriate and specific to cardiothoracic surgery, including checks on preparations for excessive bleeding, perfusion arrangements and ICU preparations, for example. The guideline presented here summarizes the evidence for the surgical checklist and also goes through in detail the changes recommended for our specialty.