Safety issues do not take holidays

December 1, 2003 By    

The holiday season starts with Thanksgiving and moves through Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Each is a seasonal celebration in which we give thanks, celebrate and share gifts of hope and love.

We make resolutions as if this time we really mean it. We start anew to try again to be comprehensive about those areas of our lives where control has become elusive.

Dr. Phil will tell you most diets fail because the plans are not balanced. In addition, at some point we ignore the plan or make up our own new plan with compromise for dessert.

The same is true in our industry.

One insurance company loss control representative laments: “The greatest effort most propane marketers make regarding safety and compliance is just before their insurance renewal or just after a claim.” Once the renewal or after a claim is resolved, it’s back to business as usual.

Are your safety efforts seasonal? The practice of safety must be a long-term commitment that is celebrated throughout the year. Conditional resolutions usually fail for a reason: They lack commitment and vision.

The ability to visualize comprehensive safety efforts is an ongoing process, not a destination. For example, the safety-related exposures of propane require constant energy and encouragement. If those efforts are not comprehensive and consistent the records will be a direct reflection of your practices.

But what about areas of safety such as customer safety communications, delivery and service standards and code compliance issues? Is there a gap between your company procedure manual and what takes place in the field? An insurance company loss control inspection will be ruthlessly objective regarding those issues.

How is it possible that some marketers take a seasonal approach to safety?

We all pray for good luck and grease the squeaky wheel. It’s the nature of being human in this crazy, complex world. The low frequency of incidents can lull us into complacency until a loss inspector shows up at our doorstep or a claim-related allegation has been made.

Then we get religion, so to speak, and apply seasonal efforts to a year-round process. We set rules and guidelines. We make resolutions and for a while, we practice what we preach.

Along comes the winter heating season and the demand of operations begins to cloud our judgment. We slowly stop inspecting what we expect until we embrace the philosophy “out of sight, out of mind.”

It’s easy to settle into a comfort zone regarding the practice of safety. The chance of a boom seems more like a threat of one-hand clapping.

But we don’t have to experience a tragic claim to prevent one. We must, however, honestly address our safety practices and procedures from a regularly measured process. No holidays allowed.

  • Do you hold safety meetings every month?
  • Do you review recent incident issues and discuss prevention techniques?
  • Are your managers more committed to doing things right than just getting them done?
  • Do you regularly inspect what you expect?
  • Do you routinely examine files and verify work documentation?
  • Do you nip negativity in the bud?
  • Do you regularly reward safe practices or are they an unspoken requirement?
  • Do you understand what is at stake if you don’t make these efforts?

Once you visualize consistent safety practices and recognize the times when seasonal issues sometimes look like a traffic jam, you can reclaim control of your safety process.

Safety is not seasonal and does not take holidays. It is a process of commitment and compliance that saves lives, avoids costly surprises and protects the bottom line. This year, take a moment to make some safety resolutions.

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