Sell safety as a value rather than an expense

September 28, 2015 By    
A show-and-tell “basket” of problems found in a gas system check.

A show-and-tell “basket” of problems found in a gas system check.

My vacation time at the cabin this summer has opened my eyes to a few safety analogies.

In fishing, the phrase “tight lines” means leaving no slack in the line, with any slack allowing a fish to shake the hook out. By keeping the line tight, you remain connected as you reel in your line. In the world of propane, “tight lines” refers to no leaks.

One of the positive outcomes from the 1985 voluntary Gas Check initiative is that we have successfully pulled thousands of damaged or leaking parts from the field. Many of my clients have a show-and-tell basket representing these success stories from the discovery of poor service work, usually at the hands of a do-it-yourselfer.

The Gas Check program has been compared to other gas system check forms. Topics include the merits of being in the voluntary documented formal program or using any form recognized by insurance companies. Most forms approved by insurance companies are acceptable forms of finding leaks and verifying system integrity.

There has been discussion about how often to perform such a system check. Some insurance companies call for once every five years. While that might be an admirable goal in an overprotective world intimidated by legal allegations, it is an unrealistic and unnecessary expectation that lacks objectivity with regard to cause and feasibility.

In that light, the original voluntary Gas Check program set a goal of achieving 20 percent per year in the theory that marketers would be up to 100 percent in five years. That was in 1985. In spite of significant pressure from the insurance world, few marketers are at 100 percent today. Many remain mired in paperwork trying to get past 70 percent.

LPG0915_safetycolumn2I am always fearful the newer installations or change-of-occupancy hookups receive a gas system check rather than the oldest customers who have systems in line with the original intentions of the Gas Check program. I think that focus was and should be about finding and fixing leaks, removing bad parts in the field and establishing the tightness of system integrity.

I remember the hoopla that followed when regulator manufacturers set replacement limits on regulator life. It was a fear-based move designed to eliminate regulator liability problems when, in fact, it mostly sold more regulators. I have seen firsthand 50-year-old regulators that worked just fine. It was usually the exposure to elements, debris, chemicals and salt that influenced regulator function.

Today, many marketers are faced with the challenge and assumed responsibility of replacing perfectly fine regulators, all because of a mostly erroneous safety concern. The hounds of liability can cause unnecessary facilitation of overregulation.

I fear the same fate might reoccur with gas system check requirements. Every five years is an unfeasible and costly expectation that does not accurately reflect the exposure or a reasonable act of prevention. You are in compliance with the intent of the original Gas Check program once you have a gas system check on file, document leak checks for service work and out-of-gas situations, warn customers about untrained professionals messing with the system and inform customers on the importance of keeping their tanks full.

Consumer safety is about selling that security as a value to our customers beyond the situational market price of propane. The Propane Education & Research Council has an excellent consumer safety outreach program with tools designed to promote consumer awareness and facilitate safe use.

When we perform quality services and sell them as values rather than expenses, we keep tight lines, remain connected to our customers and reel in well-earned profits. It’s the safety way.


Jay Johnston is an insurance executive, business management consultant and inspirational safety speaker in the propane industry. Contact him at or 952-935-5350.

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About the Author:

Allison Kral was a senior digital media manager at LP Gas magazine.

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