Photos enhance safety at your propane operation

August 30, 2018 By    

For every propane retailer, code compliance is a concern; even companies with the ever-dangerous “out of sight, out of mind” mentality will find their model is unsustainable.

These operations – and companies at the other end of the spectrum, with untenable oversight costs – need adaptable and efficient safety solutions; it’s unfortunate that safety solutions that are both inexpensive and effective are rare.

But what if there were a powerful compliance tool in every technician’s pocket just waiting for use? Moreover, what if that tool cost nothing more than a few minutes of the technician’s time?

I’m not trying to sell you anything, but rather to help retailers understand that a picture is worth a thousand words – or better yet, worth one Propane Education & Research Council-approved safety form. A few photos of a tank set taken on your smartphone could mean the difference between an impending problem and a safe, compliant propane installation.

Taking a photo prior to a tank set increases a tech’s awareness of on-site safety concerns; in a moment of dedicated safety consciousness the site’s evaluated and the installer knows that moment can be reviewed. Moreover, if this installation involves swapping out another retailer’s equipment, the before photo is solid indemnification against claims of damage or tampering.

Post-install – while performing gas and systems checks – the technician can take a wide-angle shot of the entire tank-set and closer photos of any potential areas of interest – or possible points of contention – ranging from regulator vents to the separation from outdoor appliances. Before leaving the site, the tech forwards the photos to a dedicated e-mail address for review; it is a model of simplicity that too few retailers take advantage of.

Adding smartphone photos to the documentation process isn’t just about indemnification though; it sends a message to technicians and customers that your company is accountable for its work and committed to safe practices.

Apart from that, having a bank of site photos is an invaluable marketing tool, giving retailers fodder for ad campaigns showcasing their safe, clean workmanship. All this added value and it still hasn’t been mentioned that comprehensive installation photos reduce overhead through fewer man-hours invested in monitoring and system retrofits.

Documenting safe practices with photos can be adapted to grow with a retailer’s scope too: an owner-operator outfit may not need compliance review, but could see reductions in insurance premiums and lower marketing costs just from snapping a few photos.

An operation with multiple technicians and drivers can take its documentation a step further and develop an interactive questionnaire for use in tandem with photos. Ryan Scaife, owner of Senergy Marketing Group, says an inspection survey could be integrated into most existing retailer websites for costs under $1,000. Spreading that over hundreds of installs and deliveries – this time of year is ideal for reminding drivers to evaluate tank sets before deliveries – amounts to a negligible cost per customer.

The last thing a propane professional should be is complacent with compliance: Make the tool in your pocket or – depending on how you read LP Gas – in your hand an integral part of your safety protocol. It could make all of the difference.

Zac Cromie is general manager – propane at Smith Propane and Oil, a fuel company based in Loyalhanna, Pennsylvania.

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