Using the choice, chance and control concept to teach safety

February 16, 2016 By    

When we understand how choices impact chance, we can control our experience.

As I wind up my 43rd year of providing insurance and safety services for the propane industry, I occasionally reflect on my experience. I highly recommend that other boomers who forget how much we have learned along the way do the same. Books and e-learning are great tools, but the best educational value comes from sharing experiences because they are real.

I recently stumbled across an old video with a note written from a high school teacher thanking me for speaking and showing a film on insurance and safe driving to an independent living class. The memory of that program reminded me of the experience.

In 1988, Insurance Industry Foundation Inc. underwrote a public service safety film called “Choice – Chance – Control” as an educational tool to teach secondary school students about insurance rates and exposures. It was one of the first acting jobs for Michael Richards, who played Cosmo Kramer in the sitcom “Seinfeld.” Using humor and history, the film illustrates how choice, chance and control are interrelated aspects of decision making that drivers face every day.

Richards’ character played a buffoon trying to buy insurance. He had no clue about how choice, chance or control impacted his health or insurance rates.

In many ways, his character represents millions of drivers who have far more distractions today than those of 1988. In addition, insurance and vehicle cost has escalated beyond comprehension. New trucks cost more to repair or replace. For example, the old $20,000 bulk truck now can run up to $150,000 or more. Liability awards for accidents have also risen, causing insurance rates to reflect the greater exposures. When we understand our choices, we can maintain control.

Choice is a decision to act or do something. Whether or not to wear a seat belt, comply with Department of Transportation regulations, talk or text on a cellphone, reduce speed for conditions and maintain space between other vehicles are choices drivers make every day. When we fail to make healthy choices, accidents can happen.

As our workforce ages, individual choices can impact health and longevity outcomes. We have long known that smoking, unhealthy eating and excessive alcohol consumption are choices that reduce health chances and surrender control of our health. It’s a matter of personal choice that can impact employee health, longevity and the company bottom line.

Chance is an uncertain or unpredictable event that can occur at any time. Losses such as accidents, illnesses and fires are not always predictable. Insurance rates for propane industry liability exposures, like rates for health insurance, are predicated on experience and choices. The probability of an accident can be documented via compliance with safe choices.

Control is action taken to assure a desired outcome by reducing or avoiding risks of loss.

Back in 1988, rust proofing a car helped control corrosion. A fire extinguisher is still a great tool for preventing a small fire from becoming a big one. Performing a leak check on an out-of-gas customer is the right action to take to avoid an accident due to a leak. Maintaining vehicle space and speed for conditions can prevent an avoidable accident.

The concepts of choice, chance and control are important teaching tools for all employees, especially managers involved with risk management and safety. Helping drivers, service techs, and plant and office workers understand the relationship between their actions, costly accidents and the impact on insurance rates can become elements of control by choice, not chance.

At your next safety meeting, kick around these concepts and how they impact accident prevention and profitable results. It’s the safety way.


Jay Johnston ( has 43 years of experience as an insurance executive, safety management consultant and inspirational safety speaker in the propane industry. He is the publisher of The Safety Leader newsletter and author of the book “The Practice of Safety.” He can be reached at or 612-802-0663.

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