Consider how you communicate propane safety messages to customers

July 7, 2015 By and    
PERC Safety Brochures

The Propane Education & Research Council offers customer-friendly safety materials that are accurate, up to date and scrutinized for legal considerations.

While attending the 2015 National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo in April, I had the opportunity to listen to many excellent presentations and educational sessions.

The first day at the show, I stumbled into an online and social media workshop hosted by talented folks from Warm Thoughts Communications Inc. My initial interest was in how to avoid being hacked.

However, the next thing I knew, I was in a small group sharing ideas on how to implement a social media strategy for a propane retailer. Everyone in my group had some experience with social media marketing – and some less than others. Together, we crafted a campaign to engage customers through a website and social media platforms. A young, tech-savvy woman led our presentation. We, as a group, won the contest.

This educational session helped me realize that communicating warm thoughts on propane safety through social media can really set a positive tone when communicating about safety.

Communication of safety
I have spent 42 years discussing customer safety communications with propane marketers. My standard opening line has always been, “What did you send them besides a bill?” From there, we design messages for work orders, newsletters and consumer safety warning pieces on specified topics.

Over the years, many supplier companies have gotten in and out of publishing safety material for the propane industry because of potential inferred or implied liability exposures. Older material can quickly become outdated and appear confusing when held to the light of legal scrutiny. For example, old material instructed consumers on how to light pilots, which may still be fine for a handful of manufacturers, but inappropriate in most situations. I say throw away the old stuff.

With the advent of the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) came the luxury of developing safety material that more accurately fits exposures. Industry volunteers from around the country, including suppliers and marketers, began to generate customer-friendly safety communication. These materials have made a huge difference in legitimizing our industry’s safety efforts. They have been scrutinized for legal considerations and are systematically reviewed and updated over time.

For this reason, I highly recommend that you exclusively use PERC safety products for general customer communication mailings. I have written about the three key elements of communication: message sent, message received, message acknowledged.

One marketer recently wrote, saying that I accurately described the greatest chain in their safety efforts, and those three links in the chain need to be checked consistently for their strength.

One thing I have learned over the years after working with propane marketers is that when it comes to safety communications, one size does not fit all. Each marketer has its own style of customer communication, and it has to be feasible. There is no perfect system. One common attribute that I want to underscore as important is that marketers send good warning material to customers at or before initiation of service, with documentation that it was done. It’s that simple.

A simple annual customer mailing using PERC material with documented distribution combined with in-house safety communications such as newsletters, topic-specific stuffers and safety messages on tickets and work orders complies with your duty to warn. In-house employees can get this done and cross-reference safety and service documentation.

Additionally, it is more important that this job gets done than who does it. Third-party vendors can make sense, but they can be expensive and time consuming. They may or may not understand your business as well as the mailing business. This can be a factor in an after-accident deposition.

Whether you use social media, third-party vendors or comprehensive mailing programs, it is critical that your safety messages include warm thoughts that link the chains of safety compliance intended to prevent accidents and achieve profitable results.

Jay Johnston is an insurance executive, management consultant and inspirational safety speaker. He is the publisher of The Safety Leader newsletter and author of the books “The Practice of Safety” and “A Leap of Faith Takes Courage.” Jay can be reached at or 952-935-5350.

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