Success stories should motivate marketers to reach safety standards

October 5, 2011 By    

So often we safety folks focus on accidents as examples to educate and inform with prevention in mind.

Occasionally we focus heavily on the negative and forget how much positive stuff is going on out there. Sometimes we fail to recognize the true purpose – safe product transportation, delivery and service.

Our excellent safety record as an industry is related to our focus on education and training. In the propane industry, we learn from training and topic-specific meetings designed to create awareness and prevent accidents. We also learn from interaction with others when they share their experiences.

This summer, I attended a Propane Responders’ Conference, sponsored by PERC and the Minnesota Propane Gas Association. Attendees included propane professionals, senior fire service and hazmat team trainers, heavy-duty towing and recovery professionals specializing in hazmat recovery, and law enforcement hazmat personnel.

Hands-on training regarding rollovers, fire containment and recovery provided all stakeholders with an excellent education. More importantly, all participants were motivated to participate, and the education was validated with a certificate of completion, citing 16 hours of training and 1.92 continuing education units.

I mentioned this conference in a newsletter, and one marketer wrote to share its success story in training and working with emergency responders. There was a recent fire at one of its plants, and it could have easily become a huge explosion involving the large storage tanks. The local fire department’s success in containing the incident was related to its previous experience and planning, the fire chief said.

Such success stories about valuing education should motivate all marketers to validate propane safety training.

But not all marketers are on board in complying with training requirements. I recently saw an insurance company’s loss-control report citing a marketer with failure to train employees: NFPA requires refresher training every three years as well as the Federal Motor Carrier regulations for transportation of hazardous materials. The last training was completed in 2004.

In other words, every employee at that company has been out of compliance for at least four years. Such refresher training is required, with the specific goal of preventing accidents. After an accident, such failure to comply and document training may expose your company and your insurance company, regardless of cause.

The 2011 edition of NFPA 58 addresses training under 4.4 of general requirements. When you read the broad definition, it is required of all employees who handle propane. This includes refill vendor employees. In the field, I see a failure to train refill employees to be a huge problem.

There are various forms of training, including programs from PERC, internal company training and that provided by state associations or government agencies. Any in-house training provided by a qualified professional should suffice as refresher training. It should be validated via documentation.

It is hard to speculate why some marketers fail to comply. Sometimes it has to do with secondary costs of training, such as losing a day or two of productivity. Sometimes managers don’t feel such refresher training is necessary and scoff at the requirements. The training numbers are down from a few years ago, and those who train are looking for answers.

Some associations and groups of interest have promoted a gold-star designation of compliance to recognize marketers who comply with certain standards. It can be a form of validation designed to motivate compliance. In other regions of the country, legislation includes requirements equal to code and is part of a licensing process.

At a minimum, marketers should comply with code, make sure their folks in the field are educated and validate that safety training.

It’s the safety way.

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