When propane industry members cheat on safety compliance

October 14, 2015 By    

Safety_hazard-signEverybody cheats from time to time.

Do you ever speed while driving? Do you occasionally answer the phone or text while driving? Have you ever gone off a diet?

Here in Minnesota, there was a fall resulting in the death of a worker and a serious injury to another while they were working on the roof of the new Minnesota Vikings football stadium. Sadly, the two workers did not follow safety procedures. I asked a friend, an iron worker, about how you can work on top of a roof and not tie off per regulation.

He said, “Jay, we all cheat.”

Before I could object, he continued, “Do you ever speed? Have you ever answered your phone or texted while driving? Have you ever skipped a step in a process, only to realize that if you had the patience to follow instructions, you’d have done it right the first time? We all compromise and rationalize every day. It was inconvenient for [the worker] to tie off. He ‘cheated’ and paid a high price.”

The consequences of cheating are not always clear. I was shocked to find that most articles written about having affairs don’t recommend it. The general consensus after the fact was that low self-esteem and unmet needs clouded judgment. In hindsight, married adults paid a high price to cheat.

The propane industry cannot afford to cheat on safety compliance. Every day, employees sell, transport, distribute and service propane and related products, so the obligation to comply with codes and company policies is clear. The aftermath of cheating on codes and policies in the propane industry can be devastating.

Owners, managers and workers who have been deposed, thoroughly investigated, accused and financially assaulted would discourage cheating on safety. Yet we rarely hear these stories because of confidentiality agreements tied to settlements in conjunction with embarrassment over failure to comply and concern for industry reputation. The stain of cheating often discourages open dialogue about the cause of the incident.

A few years ago, one of my newsletter subscribers had a serious accident take down his insurance limits. Frustrated by the experience, he eventually sold the business.

He wrote me under the pledge of confidentiality to say, “Jay, I wish I could warn every marketer and every employee about the catastrophic consequences of failing to comply with code, company policy and training. After the fact, the legal beagles made a monkey of me and my manager related to policy, training and cause. If our employee had simply taken the time to do things right, it may or may not have saved lives, but it would have made us defendable.”

It’s a matter of code and as Billy Joel once sang, it’s, “A Matter of Trust.” Most of us don’t see the light until we feel the heat.

My friend, the iron worker, is right. We all cheat. We all occasionally postpone, avoid, cut corners and rationalize in our personal lives. This attitude can carry over to our work.

Rather than experience the heat of consequences, I recommend that you discuss cheating in the context of safety compliance at your company’s next meeting.

Here are a few examples of how to use cheating as a safety-discussion item:
■ Talk about near misses and how they are caused.
■ Talk about how to look out for employees, competitors and customers who cheat.
■ Discuss situations where code is being cheated.
■ Talk about the perils of safe driving in relation to cheating Department of Transportation compliance and exposure to other motorists who are texting, swerving or not looking while driving.
■ Discuss recent incidents in the news where compliance cheating might have occurred. Use the safety and training section of the Propane Education & Research Council’s Propane Daily News to find situations to talk about.

I highly recommend all companies openly discuss the consequences of cheating in relation to safety. You don’t have to experience an accident to prevent one. Dialogue on this topic can keep those worthy objectives of accident prevention fresh in the minds of all stakeholders in the process.

It’s the safety way.


Jay Johnston (www.thesafetyleader.com) is an insurance executive, business management consultant and inspirational safety speaker in the propane industry. He can be reached at jay@thesafetyleader.com or call him at 612-802-0663.

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About the Author:

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

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