Stay true to core values

July 1, 2008 By    

Safety is often touted as a core value in the propane industry.

 If a competitor inspected one of your residential customer installations, what would they find?
If a competitor inspected one of your residential customer installations, what would they find?

Yet from major marketers to mom and pops, all marketers have evil competitors who fail to practice safety as a core value. Supplying leaking systems, doing shoddy work, ignoring safety procedures, lacking documentation and poor customer service are just a few examples of allegations against unsafe competitors.

These unsafe situations are corrected in the field everyday by hard-working service techs prior to taking over a customer account. Most service techs would agree that because of luck of large numbers and good fortune, many near-miss-accident situations have narrowly avoided tragic consequences. In some situations, a newly inspected system may save a life.

If a competitor inspected one of your residential customer installations, what would they find? If you don’t have a gas system check on file, odds are they may find a few issues you may have discovered if you had performed one. Of course, they’ll talk about you as the evil competitor.

Tremendous safety strides have been made and great training programs have been developed by PERC volunteers via industry funding. While those tools supply answers to problems, true safety solutions lie in the day-to-day execution and utilization of those tools.

Sometimes we try so hard to be perceived as being perfect that we get caught expounding upon and gloating over virtues that lack depth of effectiveness and real-time compliance. Lip service and avoidance are not core values.

Just because it looks good on paper doesn’t mean it is being practiced in the field. The only way to verify that is to undo the blinders, get out in the field and realize that the buck stops with your company.

What makes an employee disregard company policy? The answer to that question provides the foundation for safety solutions.

We must focus on the problems to offer solutions regarding the development and shepherding of core safety values among our employees, with our customers and in our communities.

So what are the key issues when establishing and maintaining safety as a core company and industry value?

1. Leadership outreach must be a priority. It makes no sense for leadership to hide in the ivory tower and count on expected behavior. Leaders must develop a deeper understanding of each employee’s mind-set, ability and motivation to safely perform his job. Some call it getting your hands dirty; I call it earning the right to be heard.

2. Safety solutions come from living values. Too often corporate mandates aspire to core values, yet fail to achieve the goal in real-time commerce. Leadership must lead the way in teaching employees what to do, why that behavior is expected and be specific regarding the importance of approaching all work with safety in mind. This means no more corporate exceptions to any safety-related issue.

3. Training must be verified and verification must be documented. Often I hear of employees who passed the test, but would fail a deposition attempting to describe their obligations, duties and job-safety expectations. Certification is great paperwork, but if it is based upon poor evaluation and skill verification by an unqualified manager or supervisor, those failings will be exposed.

4. Catch them doing something right and praise them. It would be tough never to be recognized for our contributions. Sure, a paycheck and benefits look like needs met, but we all need affirmation, encouragement and recognition. Those needs are huge and directly relate to employees participating in achieving safety solutions. Without motivated employees, your company could be up a financial creek without a paddle. Reward and recognize expected behavior.

I challenge all industry leaders to examine the gap between expected and actual safety behavior. Roll up your sleeves and examine all allegations of safety failings. Only the act of such performance visualization will motivate and initiate core value safety solutions. LPG

Jay Johnston ( is an insurance agent, business insurance coach and consultant; safety writer and inspirational speaker. Jay can be reached at or 952-935-5350.

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