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  • John Kingston

MORT: Method, Project, and Programme

When people say ‘MORT’ they usually mean the method for evaluating safety management. MORT was also a project that, in the 1970s, systematised knowledge of what improves safety. The method was a by-product of the project, and the success of both launched the two decades-long MORT programme. I came to it as the door was closing. The Berlin Wall was freshly demolished and, with it, funding for MORT and many other cold-war programmes. As an eager PhD student full of questions, I rang the organisation named on the MORT chart. (The chart is a worksheet that helps users find their way around MORT’s more than 400 safety management functions.) I was put through to Dr Robert Nertney, the remaining member of the original team. He offered me a gratis place on a two-week MORT course in California, and a week of his time at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory. The course, Bob explained, would help me understand the answers to the questions I was asking. He was too polite to add that the week in Idaho would also help me ask better questions. MORT is significant in various ways, but looking back, I think the modus operandi of the MORT programme remains especially relevant. MORT was an action research programme for safety improvement, and an example of Kurt Lewin’s axiom: “action, research and training is a triangle that should be kept together for the sake of any of its corners.” Perhaps safety could do with being a little more triangular?

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