Leading your company’s safety initiatives

August 21, 2017 By    

In my experience, I have found that propane marketers and suppliers who promote safety leadership within their companies develop successful operations, prevent accidents and protect the bottom line.

Yet, I find that many companies are just getting by and it is all they can do to keep up with compliance issues. Each time a new training requirement, a call for timely refresher training, a new compliance regulation or an insurance company loss-control recommendation gets thrown at them, it feels like adding another weight to the back of their already-burdened operations.

When it comes to safety at your company, are you training hard enough to develop the strength to do the job?

Safety training and compliance require safety leadership in order to develop strength. Always remember that all marketers and suppliers have an obligation to look out for their customers’ best interests when they use their products. We tend to make it complicated, but in truth it’s that simple.

Speaking of strong safety leadership, the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) recently recognized Randy Warner, vice president of safety at Ferrellgas, with the 2017 Safety Award in recognition of his distinguished safety leadership service to the industry.

Warner is a past Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) safety and training chairman, former advisory committee chairman of the safety and training working group and is the immediate past chairman of the NPGA Technology, Standards and Safety Committee. In addition to managing the huge task of safety management of a major marketer, he took on a leadership role that helped our industry develop efficient and effective processes for training and educating marketers, their employees and their customers. The fruit of that contribution and that of hundreds of other volunteers highlights the importance of safety leadership.

I believe it is good to see safety recognized as being effectively proactive.

That being said, acting as a safety leader can be a thankless job that takes thick skin. When I named my newsletter “The Safety Leader” and in turn used the title as my moniker, it caused a lot of eye rolling from contemporaries. I have learned not to let this affect how I impact safety in the propane industry.

Being a safety leader requires determination and courage to promote doing the right thing. It forces you to look for issues that may fall through the cracks and address problems before they become accidents. It involves being accused of being a hypocrite if you or your company are exposed either on a non-compliance issue or, Heaven forbid, an accident.

An accident in the news usually publicly denigrates the propane company and leaders therein. Many a manager or safety leader has been thrown under the bus as the result of an individual employee’s failure to comply with company policy.

Safety leadership strength building comes from getting employees involved.

I am the former president of the Minneapolis Jaycees. I first got involved by joining the Youth Activities Committee helping under-privileged kids. Through that initial involvement, I was taught management skills, and over 10 years I went from committee member to chairman and then up through the ranks. I never set out to take on a leadership role; I just got involved and I got stronger.

Both NPGA and PERC have numerous opportunities for propane marketers and suppliers to get involved and build employees’ individual leadership strength. As a member of the NPGA Technology, Standards and Safety Committee, I have watched numerous marketer and supplier member employees grow into leadership roles both within the committee and back home at their companies where they can share and build upon company strength through their experience.

I want to encourage all marketers and suppliers to consider developing employee strength through involvement in regional, state or national committees, programs or meetings. It is through such interaction that we develop leaders who add strength to our industry safety processes and protect the golden goose.

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

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