Where Should Safety Managers Spend Their Time?

A senior safety director in my organization frequently says that safety professionals in the field should spend 50% of their time in the office and the other 50% on job sites. Some would argue time in the field should be increased, while others see no way to reduce their current 90:10 office /job site ratio.

What about managers? Where should they spend their time?

Read any management book on the subject for advice on the subject. In summary, managers should spend time thinking and planning the team’s work, doing the work required to align resources, and analyzing what is/is not working.

I ask a lot of safety managers what they do and how often they do it. They spend a lot of time on email, in meetings, conducting inspections, reviewing investigations, and handling personnel issues (from appraisals to training to hiring).

What’s missing? Strategic planning/prioritization and analysis.

Without a strategic and deliberate plan for the year, prioritization is relegated to reactive response. A daily schedule driven by the email inbox is a sure method to burn out even the best of teams.

Analysis also suffers in many managers’ schedules. Not only analysis of injuries and incidents (too often only accomplished to satisfy a program requirement and lacking actionable plans), but analysis of what’s working, who’s working on what, and where the team’s time is being spent. Without this knowledge, what exactly is being managed? If the manager isn’t looking for what works and what doesn’t, who is?

Managers can no longer simply be the most senior employee. Our teams deserve managers who plan, do, and analyze.

What more on the subject? Pick up a copy of What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshal Goldsmith.


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