Liability threats await companies that choose to look the other way

October 15, 2013 By    

Safety can be a huge factor in achieving growth due to the perceived cost of training and customer compliance. While most companies do their best to train and help customers comply, sometimes it is easier to do nothing.

When we do become aware of a situation that is out of code and potentially unsafe, there is sometimes pressure to allow rationalization and political influence to grant some variance or exception. Profits earned would be minimal in relation to the liability exposures and yet, due to immediate cost or short-term inconvenience, some parties look the other way.

Why would a propane company with millions of dollars at stake ignore a safety situation?

Drivers are filling tanks because they are told to. Consumers do not want to pay for the cost of making sure their system is in compliance. The prospect of losing a customer over safety concerns can result in one more dent in an already-battered bottom line. It is also highly possible that another marketer may step in and supply such an unsafe situation, just to pick up the load. Where is the fairness in that?

In the short term, the cost of doing nothing looks cheaper than the cost of compliance.  In truth, the cost of doing nothing creates liability threats.

Why would a local or state fire authority ignore a situation that may put its citizens and emergency personnel in harm’s way? I believe it is partly because politics exist in all endeavors, including fire safety.

Looking the other way or granting a variance is just another excuse for not ruffling the local feathers of founding fathers. On the other hand, less-political entrepreneurs are handed the rulebook and fined for noncompliance.

If nothing ever happens, no one cares, but one bad accident involving prior knowledge can create liabilities for authorities having jurisdiction as well.

Why would a propane customer fail to allow his supplier to perform a safety inspection? A majority of retail customers who reject a gas system check are hiding something.

I hesitate to consider all of the sordid reasons someone may not want a service tech in his basement. It could be bad housekeeping or some illegal enterprise, but there is no question that such lack of access can thwart a marketer’s ability to perform and document safety checks. This is a major reason marketers find it difficult to achieve the highest percentage of such documentation.

In my opinion, all of these folks do not understand the cost of doing nothing.

Every year we have consumer situations where the faulty work of do-it-yourselfers or contractors causes accidents. Plaintiffs’ attorneys are standing in line to represent their interests in the cost of doing nothing.

Expert witnesses will receive obscene amounts of money to expose any loophole that creates doubt about your safety credibility. You cannot afford to ignore the high cost of that reality.

I will never apologize for promoting propane safety – neither should you nor our friends who enforce fire safety. We all own the responsibility to leave our comfort zone, stand up to be counted and be part of the safety solution.

When it comes to propane safety, no one can afford the cost of doing nothing.

Jay Johnston ( is an independent insurance agent, business consultant, safety leadership coach and motivational speaker. He is the author of the books “The Practice of Safety” and “A Leap of Faith Takes Courage.” Jay can be reached at 952-935-5350 or

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