Using recognition, rewards to achieve compliance goals

March 13, 2016 By    
Photo: iStock

Photo: iStock

Those of us not in the field, at the plant or on the road rarely consider the human factor while underscoring the importance of safety compliance.

We deal with paperwork, claims and liability allegations. We see the black-and-white reality of origin and cause as a simple quest to follow the rules. Safety perfection as a concept is easier said than done.

We hate to admit it, but the reality of our humanity is that from time to time we all make mistakes. By no means is that observation meant to excuse the failure to strive to comply. It simply means that as managers, leaders, mentors and trainers we must understand and address the human side of safety.

In this modern world of political correctness and quest for individual perfection, we forget no one is actually perfect. We are human beings, not the machines that control our lives. Those machines are not always perfect, either. From smartphones to computers to automobiles, wear and tear and circumstance require maintenance and repair.

As humans, we judge one another over issues that may or may not occur – in our personal lives as well as in our duties on the job. Whose version of perfection is correct? Speculation, ridicule and blame are often aimed at marketers who might not comply with industry best practices. Some industry leaders would exclude certain marketers from membership over issues such as marketing and safety. It’s a slippery slope.

One of the industry’s biggest challenges will be replacing an aging workforce. The requisites to securing a hazmat commercial driver’s license can be perceived by younger generations as overregulation and an invasion of personal privacy. To some, the cost of perfection is a high price to pay.

So how does acknowledging our humanity relate to the safe distribution and sales of propane? To many employees, the quest for perfection is like an axe waiting to fall on their head. Woe is the driver who has an accident or the tech who fails to perform compliant service. The quest to achieve zero accidents can feel like an impossible dream that even Don Quixote might have struggled to embrace.

As industry leaders, our quest is getting all employees and managers to buy into the concept of using material and programs designed to deal with the humanity of selling and distributing propane safely.

Successful companies know that consistent recognition and rewards for positive effort can go a long way toward achieving compliance goals. While you recognize and reward compliant behavior, continuously train employees to do their best. The carrot usually works better than the stick.

To that end, the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) and its volunteer force of industry experts have done an excellent job of providing tools and programs to support management and help employees achieve those important safety objectives. The material is good stuff. It’s non-judgmental, educational and motivational, and an effective means of communication.

In addition to industry employee education, PERC has developed many consumer education and safety communication programs that underscore the importance of accident prevention and the perils of untrained do-it-yourself weekend warriors. I highly recommend you use these programs and tie them to your online presence.

There are also numerous insurance providers and software vendors whose programs are designed to help marketers track employee safety compliance and customer safety communication. From tank monitoring to Department of Transportation regulation management to loss-control tools, there has never been so much state-of-the-art positive programming available to marketers. The tools you need to address the human side of safety are ready, available and effective.

If fear has become a factor with your company regarding the quest for perfection, it may be time to allay those fears with positive thoughts and realistic expectations. At your next safety meeting, discuss the human side of safety, merits training and doing your best under changing conditions.

Discuss the problems and design solutions. It’s the safety way.


Jay Johnston ( is an insurance executive, safety management consultant and inspirational safety speaker in the propane industry. He can be reached at or 612-802-0663.

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