Bearing witness to why industry members serve on boards, committees

April 14, 2015 By    

Sometimes we’re reminded about the importance of having a say, discussing issues impacting a large group of people and, in the end, initiating action. It’s a democratic process we should never take for granted.

A near two-hour discussion during the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) marketers and state directors meeting last month in San Diego underscores that point. It also reinforces the reason industry members serve on state and national boards and committees: All are trying to make a difference.

The issue at hand out west: the industry’s Certified Employee Training Program, or CETP. Propane marketers nationwide use the program to help satisfy state licensing and training requirements, and, of course, make their companies safer.

Grumblings centered on proposed changes to existing certification status.

A skills assessment is a required part of CETP certification, but the certification has no renewal requirement. An employee needs only to take the CETP exam and corresponding skills assessment in a chosen area once to gain certification. NPGA, however, had proposed a three-year renewal requirement for the program.

Eric Kuster, chairman of the NPGA CETP Certification Committee from Fairmont Specialty, had the unenviable task of presenting this issue to the marketers and state directors in San Diego.

He explained how the NPGA Executive Committee years ago sought a review of the program from a legal perspective to find gaps or to make it more robust. The committee was concerned over liability exposures and thought the program needed strengthening.

One way to do that, it decided, was through a CETP renewal every three years by redoing skills evaluations. This would impact skills evaluators and individuals with CETP certifications. For the first time, skills evaluators would pay $75 every three years for registration. Those individuals renewing their CETP certification for each level in which they are certified would pay $45 and redo their skills assessments.

What ensued at the marketers meeting was a lesson in democracy. One by one, attendees stood and voiced their opinions on both sides of the issue.

Opponents of the plan wondered if NPGA was overstepping its bounds. They questioned whether the three-year renewal would create more liability for marketers, cater to NPGA’s revenue-generating needs and take employees away from their responsibilities every three years, for every CETP exam they had successfully completed.

“CETP is great. It’s something that needs to continue,” said Gerry Misel of Georgia Gas Distributors. “It’s the next step we’re talking about right now.”

Proponents of the plan dismissed the notion that the renewal would create more liability for marketers. The idea, they believe, is to avoid future liability through documented training and skills assessments. Liability shouldn’t be a concern if the skills assessment is done properly, they said.

“We started off with the wrong objective here,” added Stuart Weidie, president and CEO of Blossman Gas and vice chairman of NPGA. “We ought to change our perspective and focus away from liability – we all have it regardless – and on educating the people in our industry. We need to step back and focus on the proper goal.”

The room erupted in applause. But as the discussion continued, it was evident too many differing opinions existed for NPGA to implement the CETP changes.

“If this group can’t reach a consensus, I don’t know if another group could,” said Charlie Ory of Family Propane and chairman-elect of NPGA. “I don’t see support for the program [changes] in this meeting. We always worked under the assumption that we work toward a consensus.”

Marketers passed a motion to return the plan to the Executive Committee, which would then provide further direction to the CETP Committee. But doubt remained about the future. Following the lengthy discussion, Kuster noted that many of the same issues were already brought up in committee.

“It seems to me we should develop something,” Weidie said. “I hope this is not a stall.”

The CETP Committee was scheduled to meet in March. Stay tuned. 

Brian Richesson

About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at brichesson@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3748.

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