Keep proactive mentality

July 1, 2008 By    

There has been a lot of press in the propane industry lately about the new manual and training DVD prepared by Propane Education & Research Council regarding static electricity or static discharge, which can result in an accident at propane-transfer sites. This potential hazard can occur during tank transport at the terminal, the bulk tank operations or at customer sites when cylinders and tanks are being filled. The new manual and training DVD describe why this is a risk that the industry needs to become sensitive to. It also spells out what can be done to minimize this potential risk to our employees and our customers.

 Encourage customers and employees to recommend ways to make the industry safer than it already is.
Encourage customers and employees to recommend ways to make the industry safer than it already is.

I had the opportunity to work on this project as legal counsel for PERC. It was a team effort to be proactive in developing safety guidelines that would avoid potential accidents.

What is gratifying to me as a longtime legal counsel to members of this industry is that AmeriGas recognized a potential problem by listening to its employees. It then took steps to determine if there was reason to believe that static discharge could present a problem to its employees and customers in transfer of propane operations. It set about to do video surveillance of one of its cylinder-filling stations. Sure enough, it caught on tape the risk that was later addressed in the new training material that PERC has recently published for the industry.

This proactive safety mentality is repeated daily in the industry, yet we do little to recognize it and commend those who do the right thing. Well here is a tip of the hat to AmeriGas for identifying a potential new risk, taking proactive steps to document it at its own expense and bringing it to the attention of the industry and PERC. A tip of the hat also goes to members of the committee who volunteered their time and sage advice to bring about the training materials that are now part of the lexicon of the industry.

Too often industry and business are demonized as heartless companies that have no concern for safety and care only about making money. This has not been my experience. This most recent project on static discharge or static electricity is just the most recent example of how this industry has worked diligently to get out in front on the safety program.

So what to do with this new information? First, read the articles that have been published. Second, get the training materials from PERC. Third, have a training seminar with your employees so they become aware of this new risk. There are steps that can be taken to minimize the risk. They are outlined in the materials that PERC has recently produced. Implement those steps.

How will you know that it was worth it to take the steps I suggest? Hopefully by avoidance of any accidents from static discharge or static electricity during propane transfer operations into the future.

This is a difficult concept to embrace for some. A serious accident usually is a wake-up call to implementation of certain safe practices. It is human nature to minimize a risk after it has occurred. Yet, we all know that being proactive is the best way to avoid accidents in the first place.

Risk-benefit analysis and cost-benefit analysis both result in the conclusion that the action steps outlined in this article and the PERC documents are a no-brainer. Your ability to drive a positive result is something you have a great deal of control over.

So, as we move forward, let your safety ideas bubble up. Encourage customers and employees to recommend ways to make the industry safer than it already is. The strongest vehicle to implement these changes are your own employees, customers and you, the owners. When an idea has broader applications to the industry, share it with those in the industry who can take it to the next level. State and national propane associations are there for that purpose. PERC is designed to develop safety practices and training.

Each day is a new opportunity to do the right thing. Today, kudos go to AmeriGas for doing the right thing. I would love to write an article about your safety initiative. If you think you have a great idea, let me know. Perhaps we can take it to the next level together.

John V. McCoy is the president of McCoy & Hofbauer, S.C. and specializes in the representation of propane companies. He can be reached at 800-599-8300 or

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