Emergency safety stakeholders

June 1, 2006 By    

There are many reasons to adhere to compliance standards and communicate with customers in an effort to prevent accidents. However, we must consider other stakeholders in the process.

 Jay Johnston
Jay Johnston

Once an accident occurs, it is often the emergency responders who are left to deal with the repercussions and after-accident containment. These tasks include fire containment, dealing with leaking or burning gas, providing medical attention and securing the area.

A recent headline announced: Detroit firefighter critically injured in fire, blast. Fire officials say the family apparently was having a barbecue, and the homeowner went to the basement to get a tank of propane.

You can bet some attorney will try to bring whoever filled the cylinder, the cylinder manufacturer and other related equipment manufacturers into the liability fray. In addition, OSHA will investigate the circumstances under which the firefighter was injured. Prevention recommendations will be reviewed regarding future fire personnel procedure when containing and securing an accident site involving propane.

That’s what happened after the classic Albert City Iowa accident in 1998, in which two volunteer firefighters died when a storage tank exploded after an all-terrain vehicle clipped an unprotected liquid line at a poultry facility.

After the fact, arguments then ensued as to who should be responsible for damages. The finger pointers included everyone from attorneys to OSHA and it got pretty ugly.

Many stakeholders were asked to take responsibility for this tragedy. The gas supplier, wholesale gas supplier, equipment manufacturers, installers of the system, the volunteer fire chief and the liability coverage of the NPGA all were asked to contribute to the settlement, fines and compensation for damages.

The truth is that keeping propane tanks in basements and installing and delivering to unprotected systems are both examples of failure to adhere to compliance codes. In both cases, it would appear that these accidents could have been prevented, thus avoiding the need to put emergency personnel in harms way.

I believe it is very important that we examine our efforts to assist with training and education of emergency personnel in addition to communicating with our customers about safety.

The Propane Education & Research Council has a website that provides propane professionals and emergency responders with in-depth safety and training information. Its Propane Emergencies program includes a student workbook, note-taking guide and emergency response scenarios.

In addition to that, I recommend shorter, more specific safety education meetings with local fire and emergency personnel to facilitate a diverse learning process. Simple meetings on propane basics may go a long way towards injury prevention.

What efforts are you currently making to assist emergency personnel in your area?

Since 9/11 we have developed a new appreciation for the sacrifice and dedication made by our nations emergency responders and fire fighters. We have the tools and materials to train and educate both consumers and emergency responders, as stakeholders in the safety process.

For safety’s sake – let’s use them.

Jay Johnston (www.thesafetyleader.com) is president of Jay Johnston & Associates, specializing in insurance and safety strategies, specifically tailored for propane marketers. He can be reached at 952-253-2710.

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