Propane accidents affect all of us

December 1, 2004 By    

Extra, extra — did you hear the news? The standard reaction of many marketers upon hearing the news of a competitor’s propane accident or related incident may vary, but it usually sounds like this:

“That company was an accident waiting to happen,” and the thought, “This never would have happened to us.” Your evil competitor has confirmed your worst suspicions and is finally paying the price for his bootstrapping ways.

  Jay Johnston
Jay Johnston

Make no mistake; marketers and suppliers one and all pay the ultimate price when fellow members fail to follow safety procedures.

Accidents don’t just happen to evil bootstrappers. They happen with good companies like yours as well. No one deserves such a fate. However, it is important that we learn from circumstances that result in preventable accidents.

Our industry is made up of marketers and suppliers who contribute equally to growth and prosperity. When any industry member suffers, we all do. When a marketer has an accident or allegations of negligence, it is the associated suppliers who pay the claims, defend allegations and deal with financial repercussions.

Let’s say you have a marketer with a clean record and a preventable accident injured and/or killed multiple employees. Workers’ Compensation is the first line of financial support with guaranteed payments for medical, lost time and death benefits. At this point the safety practices and enforcement of such practices by management will be scrutinized in plaintiff’s attorney allegations. OSHA will also ruthlessly examine your procedures.

The second line of support and defense will be your general liability carrier, followed closely by your umbrella carrier.

Imagine how helpless an insurance company must feel when it did its best to confirm safety procedures, only to end up paying a claim in which procedure was not followed and the accident never should have happened.

One insurance underwriter vents his frustration, “How do you insure against stupidity?”

In this case our reference to stupidity has nothing to do with intelligence quotients. It has to do with a dulling numbness, an apathetic or groggy approach to procedural safety.

We might not like it, but Forest Gump was right: “Stupid is as stupid does.”

If that seems a little rough, try explaining cause and origin to the family of a loved one who was injured, burned or died. The time for such self-examination is now.

The point is not to assign blame or criticize. That always follows any accident.

The point is always about accident prevention. It is about how we do or don’t inspect what we expect when it comes to following company and industry compliance procedures.

That is why we must learn from the mistakes or circumstances of any accident with the express purpose of preventing such accidents in the future.

That is why, painful as it might seem, those who experience such circumstances must become evangelical about safety solutions and encourage others to avoid being in that same position.

If industry members — marketers and suppliers, stakeholders and stockholders alike — take mutual responsibility for safety, the only news about propane safety will be good news.

Jay Johnston ( is president of Jay Johnston & Associates Inc., and a risk management firm specializing in insurance consulting, broker audits, safety audits, bid management and commitment-based safety presentations. He can be reached at 952-253-271.

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