Aims This paper sets the discussion of emotions at work within the modern NHS and the current prioritisation of creating a safety culture within the service. Background The paper focuses on the work of students, frontline nurses and their managers drawing on recent studies of patient safety in the curriculum, and governance and incentives in the care of patients with complex long term conditions. Methods The primary research featured in the paper combined a case study design with focus groups, interviews and observation. Results In the patient safety research the importance of physical and emotional safety emerged as a key finding both for users and professionals. In the governance and incentives research, risk emerged as a key concern for managers, frontline workers and users. Conclusion The recognition of emotions and the importance of emotional labour at an individual and organizational level managed by emotionally intelligent leaders played an important role in promoting worker and patient safety and reducing workplace risk. Implications for nurse managers Nurse managers need to be aware of the emotional complexities of their organizations in order to set up systems to support the emotional wellbeing of professionals and users which in turn ensures safety and reduces risk.