Avoiding a weak safety backhand

March 1, 2005 By    

Anyone who plays tennis and has a weak backhand shot understands the lengths we will go to avoid improving a weakness.

 Jay Johnston
Jay Johnston

In tennis, you take extra steps to be in position to hit a more comfortable forehand shot. In safety, we tend to do the same thing.

Tort reform, legislated legal mandates such as licensing and insurance and “gold star” accreditation may have some merit. But be careful what you ask for. They are all forms of walking around your safety backhand.

First of all, I wish many marketers would stop hating insurance companies. Trust me when I tell you that you have customers who say the same thing about you.

The outrageous assumption that you earn your profits and they don’t is a weak excuse for not complying with safety standards. So you walk around your backhand and blame everyone but yourself for your own circumstances.

When the hard insurance market hit, marketers received annual increases of 1 to 2 cents per gallon. This correction was comparable to corrections throughout all industries, not just the propane industry.

Ironically and unfortunately, this year’s increase in the cost of a gallon of propane makes those insurance costs look small.

I get a little steamed when those justifying everything from legal mandates to weak captive insurance programs base their logic on the misguided concept that everyone received a 300 percent premium increase. Not because I feel I have to defend the insurance industry, but because those rare situations are taken out of context to get you to walk around your backhand.

If I were pushing for tort reform, legal mandates or starting a new income-generating insurance program, I would be more careful regarding the accuracy of the data. As we found with the old LPG Risk Retention insurance plan, short cuts come back to haunt you.

I’d be very careful about inviting the government into your business.

You may have to concede liabilities to achieve tort reform. You may have to give up control of self-regulation. You may end up spending more to establish and enforce accreditation standards than it would cost to simply meet existing standards on your own.

When it comes to insurance, safety and legal defense, it’s quite possible that independently taking responsibility for your own company’s safety exposures would be a less costly solution.

Go ahead and get mad at me if you like.

But we all must look in the mirror once in a while and be truthful about walking around our safety backhand in favor of solutions too good to be true.

Jay Johnston (www.TheSafetyLeader.com) is president of Jay Johnston & Associates, Inc., specializing in insurance audits, bid management, safety communications audits and high impact safety presentations. He can be reached at 888-725-2705 or

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