Taking the lead on propane safety

February 24, 2017 By    
Photo credit: istolethetv via Foter.com / CC BY

Photo credit: istolethetv via Foter.com / CC BY

Dancing can be a complicated process where individuality may foster creative differences.

For example, my wife is a wedding dancer. In a crowd of friends and loved ones, she can theme dance, line dance and boogie to the oldies like a whirling dervish – while I shy away from showy moves in large crowds, don’t mind taking the dance floor as the only couple and enjoy dancing as a more intimate experience.

In that light, our 40-year dance with marriage has been a tapestry of compromise. We often talk of taking ballroom dancing classes with the objective of synchronizing our moves, yet the unlikely event keeps getting postponed because we anticipate friction, conflict and frustration.

When it comes to safety’s dance with operations, internal interests can often be found on opposite sides of the dance floor. While a safety director might keep score counting accident-free days, fewer lost-time injuries and limited challenges of liability, an operations manager might keep score by counting gallons sold, income generated, budget objectives attained and expenses contained. Throw in the regulatory influence of authorities having jurisdiction and it can feel like dancing with a three-legged stool.

So the question with regard to safety dancing is: Who is going to lead?

In dancing, one person usually leads to achieve the common goal of fluid motion. Fighting the lead can lead to chaos. Toes get stepped on and the dance is interrupted. In propane safety, all sides often fail to synchronize common objectives. However, it is through mutual leadership efforts that all stakeholders must participate in the safety leadership process.

First and foremost, management must lead the way. The buck stops with management to pay attention to the safety dance – which employees are out of rhythm; who fails to comply with required footwork; who needs to slow down or pick it up; and who needs to pay more attention.

Insurance loss runs are great tools to accurately reflect exposures. Read them and work with your insurance professionals to address or attack current or potential future problems.

Using general estimates, 80 to 90 percent of marketers know long-term profitability is contingent on achieving safe results. It’s the 10 to 20 percent we need to reach as leaders, mentors and stakeholders in the same industry. That means 10 to 20 percent of managers could benefit from safety dance lessons.

Ten to 20 percent of employees have two left feet when it comes to safety dancing. Either they don’t agree with code, rules, regulations or company policy or their safety dance lessons (training) failed to instill the discipline required to distribute propane safely.

Performing a leak check on every out of gas or interruption of service as required by code should never be a freeform option. In addition, the physical work in the field must match the documentation of work turned into the office. Out-of-sync workers should never check a box on their gas system check forms if they haven’t performed the required test or work. Getting into the rhythm of complying with code and company policy are the right moves when it comes to safety dancing.

Occasionally, some employees don’t have the proper tools or personal protection equipment designed to prevent personal injuries. It is incumbent upon those employees to get the tools and personal protection equipment needed (i.e. boots, gloves, protective eyewear) if they choose to work for a company that disregards personal safety. Sometimes we have to look out for ourselves when others fail to do so.

Finally, we must include customer care and consideration in the safety dance. Ten to 20 percent of propane customers will sometimes try to avoid, distract from and delay required safety work in the name of cutting costs and not wanting to pay for required safety service. Whether it is an out-of-step industrial account, commercial customer, cylinder filler, homeowner, renter or landlord, we as an industry cannot allow the careless propane user to lead the safety dance.

Whether your style is the monkey or the lindy, hip-hop or the stiff-guy boogie, all stakeholders should occasionally check the rhythm and flow of their safety dances.


Jay Johnston is an insurance executive, safety management consultant and inspirational speaker in the propane industry. He can be reached at jay@thesafetyleader.com or 612-802-0663.

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