Simple terms can help underscore damaging results of small neglect

July 8, 2013 By    

I’m working on my next safety book called “Propane Safety for Dummies.”

My plan is to write a book that educates consumers as well as employees of the propane industry, utilizing the simplest concepts and clearest understandings I can muster.

I must confess that in the real world, when I am struggling to understand a concept, I have more than once gone to the books for dummies. Sometimes we all need different forms of communication to grasp the simplest concepts. Complicated concepts can be easier to understand when put in simple terms.

We all read and react to news stories of economy, government or human interest with good regard or agnostic indifference. The church of the mind is not always open. Our individual responses to such information, especially to safety, can vary greatly. Sometimes we tune out.

I am grateful when folks write and say they get my messages about safety leadership in the propane industry. I also like it when hardworking employees roll their eyes at my suggestions of compliance given the challenges of the real world. They might not agree, but they get it.

More than once I’ve heard that it’s been said in the field, “Jay Johnston wouldn’t like this!”

Propane executives have accused me on occasion of damaging the image of propane by highlighting safety concerns. No problem. It’s all good. You have to have broad shoulders to express opinions.

Those eye rollers might not like my messages, but deep down they know there is an element of truth to my advice and concerns. A number of them pay closer attention after a close call. They see the light when they feel the heat.

I find we all need to be open to the different ways we learn. Sometimes experience is a great teacher, but it’s always better to learn from the mistakes of others.

Let’s agree that the concept of propane safety for dummies might offend as many people as it educates. Still, it might not hurt to dumb down your messages about safety. By keeping messages very simple, we can underscore the bigger concepts of consequences rather than focus on literal compliance.

Safety vigilance
Safety ideas must be real to employees or they don’t get it. Draw big pictures of dramatic damage that can result from small neglects, and you will get their attention.

It is twice as tough with executives because juggling the consequences of profitability can dull their ability to consider safety issues. Yet, safety must be real to propane executives as well, or lack of leadership will eventually show up as a liability to the bottom line.

Someone once said that constant vigilance is the price of liberty. While they argue about who said it, I suggest my variation as it applies to safety: Constant safety vigilance is the price of profitability.

As you wind into summer and plan for your next busy season, I suggest you make plans for safety communications in the simplest of terms. Dumb it down so consumers, employees and even propane executives can understand your message.

True safety leaders learn that to reach all employees and customers they must bring the level of communication down to the most common human denominator to be effective and protect the bottom line.

Jay Johnston ( is an independent insurance agent, business consultant, safety leadership coach and motivational speaker. He is the author of the books “The Practice of Safety” and “A Leap of Faith Takes Courage.” Jay can be reached at 952-935-5350 or jay@the

Comments are currently closed.