Getting prepared for the busy season

October 1, 2007 By    

With the fall and winter season approaching, propane marketers are preparing for the busiest part of their year. As your company prepares going forward, it is always important to keep safety concerns as a priority.

John McCoy LP/Gas Magazine Columnist
John McCoy LP/Gas Magazine Columnist

Take a few moments now to remind your team of the need to run a safe operation. It will provide dividends to you down the road in the form of fewer days away from work, fewer out-of-gas calls and, hopefully, an avoidance of accidents that result in injuries to your employees, your customers and their property.

It has been known in the behavioral sciences for many years that people often ignore safety practices because of complacency. When attention is focused on these concerns, people tend to take heed and perform better. Knowing this safety needs to be a mandate of company leaders in both word and action.

Some points I recommend for your fall safety refresher seminar include the following:

1. Keep tanks from running empty. There should be a concerted effort to fill tanks on keep-fill in the next couple of months. With the availability of degree day consumption, GPS monitoring and meter reading, among other methods, every effort should be made to keep those tanks from running empty.

Tanks that are on a will-call basis create a unique challenge to keep them from running empty. Nonetheless, new technologies such as GPS monitoring and meter reading can complement the present notification systems whereby the consumer calls for a delivery when they are at 20 to 30 percent. Consider leasing a GPS system or meter system to will-call customers as a means of avoiding out-of-gas situations.

2. Encourage your customers to have an annual appliance check-up to make sure their internal system is operating properly and safely. Virtually every state places the legal duty on the gas customers to keep appliances in their homes running properly.

Nonetheless, when these systems are not properly maintained by the customer, accidents may occur. A courtesy reminder is a nice touch. It also may provide some business to your company in the event you perform appliance service work.

3. Remind your employees to follow their CETP training, to take a refresher course, if necessary, and to be vigilant on the job to ensure safe practices. To avoid employee injuries, reinforce proper bending and lifting practices and use of mechanical and manual tools that will allow the movement and setting of tanks, cylinders and appliances.

Recent industry research has shown that injuries to employees occur most frequently to young employees with less than six months of experience. Focusing on this employee population is a good starting point.

4. When refilling cylinders, always check the last date of recertification or the manufacture date. During the refilling process, companies are excellent at ensuring these cylinders pass the visual inspection of gauges, dings, dents and corrosion.

They also need to look at the basis for these same visual problems and to ensure the presence of a collar or cap, as appropriate. What is sometimes overlooked during this process is the date on the cylinder. While an out of date cylinder does not make it unsafe, it does result in many unnecessary legal disputes.

5. Respond to leaks as soon as possible. No accidents can be initiated by a gas explosion without a leak. When we are notified of a leak, it is always important to get the consumer out of the presence of the gas, to turn off the gas at the tank if it can be done safely and avoid any actions that might present an ignition source. As soon as you can, get a company representative to the site to make sure the situation is under control.

After 20 years working for this industry, these concerns on safety have continued. My experience is that the industry works diligently to follow these safe practices.

We must continue to remind ourselves of these safe practices. These proactive steps will minimize accidents going forward.

John V. McCoy is the president of McCoy & Hofbauer, S.C. and specializes in the representation of propane companies. He can be reached at 800-599-8300 or jmccoy@mh-law.us.

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