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Values are vital in developing safety leaders at your company

March 30, 2015 By and    

The phrase “It’s the safety way” underscores the importance of values in achieving profitable growth through leadership.

When I use the phrase, I’m referring to a standard of conduct that values safety over convenience and situational ethics in day-to-day commerce.

Life gets complicated when emotions drive our safety actions. Bad things happen to good people, and good things even happen to bad people. Amid the chaos of world news, countries disagree, rebels fight for independence and people suffer the consequences. This may be the way of the world, but it is not the safety way.

My brother-in-law produced a documentary called “Pattern of Evidence: The Exodus.” It applies archeological findings that date back to 1,400 B.C. in an effort to establish a timeline of the Exodus and possibly prove past estimations are off by 200 years.

I found this educational documentary fascinating, as Christians, Muslims, Jews and agnostics all contributed to the documentary’s discussion. Their opinions on the findings varied.

Propane safety can be a hot topic where opinions vary depending on company values, compliance commitment and interpretations of code.

When accidents happen, blame is a key element in liability outcome. No one wins when injury, death or property damage related to propane occurs. Good people are painted as bad through allegations of negligence contributing to cause. Occasionally bad people win because they lie about their own actions.

This applies to the do-it-yourselfer, as well as service and delivery personnel. By virtue of free will, they have a choice to obey laws and comply with codes of conduct. By virtue of law, they’re required to comply. Unfortunately, propane companies are sometimes targeted for insurance limits.

No job can be profitable if it is not done safely. It’s a code of conduct based on the obligation to comply via documentation of our actions.

All employees in the propane industry must be trained and have a skill assessment performed by their supervisor. Both supervisors and employees must be trained to do their jobs.

Let’s start with the supervisor. The supervisor is verifying skill assessment after training to document comprehension. Supervisors’ personal understanding of code and procedure is essential to their ability to confirm and verify. This means supervisors should be adequately trained to perform and understand the job skills they are to assess.

Supervisors who come from outside the propane industry bring excellent management skills to the industry, but they may benefit from skill-focused training to help them comprehend code compliance and internal company policy standards they will be responsible for managing.

In some ways, ground-up propane employees who become managers are highly valued because they grew through hands-on experience. That experience combined with formal management training can be highly effective in managing for compliance. 

Managers from both sides can benefit greatly from each other through a team concept of growth through mutual support.

Employees must also be trained to clearly communicate specifics of their job and code requirements. If employees are ever deposed in a legal liability case, you don’t want that to be the first time they have explained the nature of their duties. The same goes for supervisors.

Having employees and supervisors participate in a mock trial using a known accident case as an example will clarify the need to clearly communicate. You want them comfortable with their knowledge to the point of confidence.

The “safety way” is the confidence of compliance and value that helps us sleep at night with the knowledge that we are doing our best to distribute and service propane safely.

Values, it turns out, can be a great insulator in our ability to not let emotions or situational ethics impact the quality of our work. It’s the quality of our work that supports industry growth and profitability. 

Jay Johnston has 42 years of experience as an insurance executive, safety management consultant and inspirational safety speaker in the propane industry. Contact him at or 952-935-5350.

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