Being safe is a big responsibility

August 1, 2002 By    

Ever since Sept. 11, our nation has had to do some growing up and accept responsibility for our actions and our compromises.

It’s like someone pulled the blanket off all the stuff that was too good to be true.

Enron, Arthur Andersen, Xerox and WorldCom are among the corporations currently being held responsible for their actions, but those cows have long been out of the barn.

Just when did the decision to compromise responsibility begin?

Webster defines responsible this way: Liable to be called upon to answer for one’s acts or decisions, answerable, reliable, trustworthy, able to choose for one’s self between right and wrong, involving accountability or important duties.

Standing back from it all, our nation is called upon to take responsibility for our actions, our inactions and our compromises. It begins with you and me.

I must confess my frustration with propane marketers who fail to understand their role in being responsible for compliance with safe practices. It’s not about fairness. It’s not about feasibility. It’s about preventing accidents.

I honestly cannot defend the insurance industry for their wild swings and seemingly punitive increases. But I also believe that misses the point. If you are in compliance and have a profitable claims record, open competition will continue to reward those efforts.

Compliance with safety issues has become a huge factor in obtaining insurance for all industries – not just the propane industry. Believe it or not, premium increases by percentage in the propane industry have been lower than other industries. For example, commercial property owners are experiencing 100 percent premium increases across the board, but many propane marketers are keeping the increase down to 30 percent or less, assuming they were with a carrier who was charging a realistic price in the first place.

It is those who were with the cheapest deal or those who have compliance or claims issues that are really getting whacked. They perceive fairness in relation to what they have known, which has been comparatively cheap. Once they feel this way, it becomes the standard expectation. Any deviation from what we expect is always disappointing.

Then we get angry. The last thing we want to do is accept responsibility for our risks and exposures. It’s those damn insurance companies. It’s the agent. It’s NFPA for recommending higher standards. Lastly, it’s those blood-sucking attorneys. We blame them all.

I ask you now to honestly answer one question: Who owns the dog?

You do, my friends. Throw out all those scapegoats and admit these truths:

  • The courts have been very consistent in holding propane marketers to certain safety standards.
  • The insurance companies have to defend you and write the checks.
  • You own the responsibility to be safe.
  • You own the responsibility to communicate with customers on “Duty to Warn” and any other information that will keep them from contributing to an incident.
  • You own the responsibility to have good records on the systems you deliver to.
  • Your employees deliver, service and install equipment for a hazardous material.
  • Your vehicles haul and deliver hazardous material.
  • When there is an incident, someone will probably sue you.
  • If you are undefendable, it will be very expensive.

Once you unconditionally understand the responsibility you can take a look at the weak spots, the areas that have room for improvement, the small things you can consistently do to ensure a claim-free environment. Never forget that is the goal.

One of my clients has been claim free for 32 years (knock on wood). Say what you will about luck and circumstance – that’s pretty impressive. I am certain that they did not achieve that accomplishment by inaction or compromise. One must look at that record and say without a doubt that they have been responsible.

The negative thinkers of the world may say they are long overdue to have an accident.

I disagree. That kind of thinking embraces compromise and ignores responsibility.

Those kinds of results are the reflection of leadership and accountability.

Now is the time to be openly candid about your compromises and inactions.

Discuss the issues. Design solutions. Be responsible.

Your bottom line depends on it.

Remember: Without responsible leadership, your company could be letting the opportunity for profitability run down the leg of your corporate trousers, so to speak.

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