Virginia company uses rewards program to reinforce safe practices

February 9, 2011 By    

A former winner of NPGA’s Safety Award continues to keep a safe eye on the propane industry.

Tim Spicer, vice president of Virginia-based Tiger Fuel Co., Appomattox and Lovingston locations, has built his 25-year propane industry career on safety.

“Safety is what makes me tick,” says Spicer, 44, who works alongside Frank Conley, Mitch Fitch and Donald Bell on the company’s safety initiatives.

One of those initiatives involves an incentive program where each full-time, fuel-service-related employee can gain monetary rewards (up to $1,000 annually) for safety success. Launched in 2008, the program is composed of individual and team parts – the latter for employees performing similar functions, such as drivers. An employee’s team bonus is tied to the safety performance of that team’s members.

Tiger Fuel Co. developed three tiers of safety violations (minor, mid-level and major), with each tier having a corresponding percentage that can be deducted from the individual and team portions of the bonus.

“With previous programs, a bonus was just their bonus,” Spicer explains. “In creating that tie-in [with the team], they are looking out for one another. Each person has a stake in another person’s bonus. It’s been very successful.”

Spicer’s propane industry career began in 1986 with Petrolane. Before ascending into his current management position, Spicer learned the industry as a bobtail and transport driver, service technician and dispatcher. He also learned the importance of safety from Petrolane’s Stan Norland.

“He was the type of person who didn’t have too much to say, but when he did talk you knew he meant business,” Spicer recalls. “He was a great communicator in explaining the seriousness of safety and working with propane. He was a great mentor to learn from.”

Lessons learned at Petrolane remained with Spicer as he joined Tiger Fuel Co. in 1993. His work as Safety Committee chairman of the Virginia Propane Gas Association earned him the 2005 NPGA Safety Award. He helped to grow the state’s training program significantly and promote propane emergency training materials to fire departments.

Spicer is the association’s former president and a current member of the Safety and Education Committee.

“Safety is something that needs to be at the core of our businesses. It just can’t happen when it’s convenient or something we do after an incident,” Spicer says. “A productive safety plan has to have life. It looks at behavior, and behavior has rewards or consequences.”

TEAM: Safety leaders Tim Spicer (pictured above), Frank Conley, Mitch Fitch and Donald Bell
LOCATION: Charlottesville, Lovingston and Appomattox, providing central Virginia with petroleum energy products
FOUNDED: 1982
EMPLOYEES: About 200 throughout the company
PROPANE SOLD: About 7 million gallons per year
ONLINE: www.tigerfuel.com

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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