Ensuring safety with well-trained employees

January 29, 2018 By    

Whatever your faith, persuasion or spiritual outlook, the holidays represent a time to remember, to be thankful and to share with others.

The sharing might take the form of religious observances, charitable giving, remembering friends, celebrating life, family, death and everything in between. The point is, we take time to remember the important things in life, and in those moments we are authentically focused.

When it comes to propane safety, we must find the Zen zone that allows us to stay authentically focused on safety. Authenticity means being the real deal, walking the talk, inspecting what we expect and never compromising the safety of employees or customers.

In my guitar practice, it took years of frustrating repetition to reach the point of being authentically focused enough to play without thinking too hard about what I was doing. It slowly became a part of my recall, and in utilizing this process I have learned to play and sing hundreds of songs by heart.

The propane industry has long labored at the task of effectively training employees. Liability issues and pressure from groups such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the National Fire Protection Association, individual state jurisdictions and the insurance industry have led the mandate for guidelines on qualification, education and compliance.

There are current discussions afoot with regard to CETP training and a possible shift to task-based education as educators and trainers attempt to seek the right blend of classroom training, e-learning and skill verification.

For example, an employee who exclusively fills cylinders may be qualified as task trained via education through the Propane Education & Research Council’s (PERC) Dispensing Propane Safely program. This, followed up with management oversight, skill assessment and OSHA-required education, in my opinion, should qualify and authorize an employee to dispense propane without having a bundled education on tasks they do not perform.

That said, numerous states have rigorous safety compliance standards, including licensing with regard to anyone distributing propane in their jurisdiction. Train with jurisdictional compliance in mind as legislative mandates define compliance.

Cost is a factor in this debate. The National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) and PERC are under pressure to utilize tools developed through dues and assessment income to lower training costs while remaining current and effective. Many marketers feel costs for certification should be contained at cost. Efficient uses of services offered by NPGA and PERC are cards on the table in this discussion. Hopefully each marketer can achieve effective training without getting too caught up in what can become a costly paperwork nightmare. Remember that complicated processes do not always guarantee educational comprehension.

As an industry, we have to continue to search for innovation, effectiveness and efficiency with regard to training and qualifying employees, while being realistic about compliance feasibility.

When I refer to a Zen zone and authentic focus, I am selling the concept that well-trained employees will hopefully perform their tasks and scrutinize compliance as a matter of habit and practice, while striving to not let distraction or compromise violate company policy.

Management plays a huge role in helping employees become authentically focused. Just as my guitar skills developed over years of practice, all employees in the propane industry need such practice and training until compliance is second nature. Management must recognize its role in training effectiveness, achieving company policy compliance, preventing preventable accidents and avoiding allegations of liability. We all need proactive leadership to stay on course.

As this holiday season winds down, take a moment to reflect on how to improve and motivate the effectiveness of employee safety. All efforts by management to encourage employees to perform the tasks of their job safely and stay authentically focused will prevent accidents, create good karma and protect the golden goose.


Jay Johnston is an insurance executive, safety management consultant and motivational speaker in the propane industry. He is the publisher of The Safety Leader newsletter and author of “The Practice of Safety” and “A Leap of Faith Takes Courage.” He can be reached at 612-802-0663 or jay@thesafetyleader.com.

NOTE: The opinions and viewpoints expressed herein are solely Jay Johnston’s and should in no way be interpreted as those of LP Gas magazine or any of its staff members.

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