Do you feel that you are working non-stop yet not making any progress in your safety program? As a safety professional, it is easy to be pulled in one hundred directions each day which results in you being busy but not working on tasks that will make a meaningful impact on the safety program.
This post is broken down into these core sections:
- Understanding the difference between working ON your safety program versus working IN your safety program
- Figuring out where your time is going
- Valuing your time
- Staying organized on what needs to be accomplished
- Four actionable time management tips
Who is This Post For?
This post can be really for any professional, but it is tailored to the safety professional who is the one solely responsible for the safety program in an entire facility or company. It is also applicable to safety managers who may have several individuals under them, but they are still stretched thin in their role.
Working ON Your Safety Program vs Working IN It
Before we get into the actionable tips for improving time management, it is vital to clarify the difference between working on your safety program as opposed to in it. If you do not understand the difference, there’s not much use in trying to manage your time better.
To put it simply, working ON your safety program means seeing the bigger vision, being proactive, working on initiatives that will bring positive impacts for months and years to come.
Working IN your safety program means being caught up in the minutiae, saying yes to every request, not protecting your time and energy, and being reactive. The problem is, working IN the safety program sometimes feels good because you can check the box or get that to-do list done- very quantifiable actions.
Working ON the safety program can be less quantifiable. Actions such as getting out of the office and doing safety observations, coaching employees on safe behaviors, overhauling the training program, etc., do not always equate to that instant gratification of checking the box on your to-do list.
Figure Out Where Your Time is Going
To implement some of the tips below, first, you need to figure out where your time is going. Take notes each day on what you are working on each hour. Do this over a few weeks to better understand how you are spending your time.
Put a Value on Your Time
Once you figure out what you are spending your time on, it is important to quantify how you are spending your time by assigning a value to it. Figuring out the value of one hour of your time at work is easy. The calculation is below.
Value of one hour of your time = (Your salary * 1.3) / 2,080 Hours
Simply take your salary and multiply by 1.3. The 1.3 figure is the additional cost of an employee’s salary for an employer, according to the Small Business Administration. Once you have that number, divide it by 2,080, which is the number of hours you will work in a year if you work 40 hours per week. The number that you get is the value of one hour of your time at work.
Let’s assume you are paid a $100,000 salary, and you work 40 hours per week. Using the calculation above:
Value of one hour of your time = ($100,000 * 1.3) / 2,080 hours
Value of one hour of your time = $62.50
Using this Number to Make Better Decisions
Now that you have quantified the time you are spending each day, and the value of that time, you can begin to figure out how to better spend that time as you look at the time management tips below.
Also, by quantifying how much you are spending on certain tasks with a dollar amount, you can leverage this information when speaking with key decision-makers when trying to invest in a new service that will save you time, delegating safety responsibilities to other team members, or making the case to hire additional administrative help.
Stay Organized by Using Checklists
Before getting into the actionable time management tips below, it is vital to get organized on what you need to accomplish both in the short term and long term.
With so many tasks that need to be done, it is vital to have a way to track them all. Using checklists is a simple way to track what needs to be accomplished and when tasks get done. Depending on your role, and what your responsibilities are, will determine the best method of using checklists to track what needs to be done.
Below are examples of how to use yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily checklists to put down what you need to do on paper. By doing so, you not only can stay on top of everything more efficiently, but by dumping these items onto checklists that you can trust, it frees up brainpower to focus on other things.
Longer time frame checklists apply to safety pros who handle the bulk of the safety responsibilities at their company, who manage a team, or who work on higher-level projects that take time to implement. Make a checklist of high-level projects or one-time tasks that need to be done throughout the next twelve months. If a task has to be done in a specific month, put the month next to it.
The monthly checklist can be leveraged to write down actions you need to take that month to reach the longer-term projects that you have outlined in the yearly checklist. These items should not include the daily or weekly repetitive tasks that you know you need to do. These are items that are completed infrequently, similar to the yearly checklist items.
Weekly checklists are fundamental for me to stay organized and efficient. Every single week I create three checklists- one for work, one for my business, and one for personal items. As I go throughout my week, I will mark off items and add others to the list as things come up. If I did not get items completed for that week, I will simply add them to the next week’s checklist.
This practice helps to ensure I do not miss anything as well as takes the mental load off of me to remember what needs to get done.
Daily checklists may be overkill. Daily checklists should be used if there are many things you need to get done on a specific day. As you get more efficient with your time, there may not be a need for a daily checklist.
Four Actionable Time Management Tips for Safety Pros
The sections below outline actionable tips to better manage your time as a safety professional. The tips start with organizational best practices before getting into what actions to take to begin to take back your time at work.
Tip 1: Do Certain Tasks on Specific Days
There are tasks that can only be completed on certain days. There are others that come up from time to time that could be streamlined by setting specific days to do the task.
One example is scheduling specific days for orientation training. Training can suck up a lot of your time as a safety professional. Training is important, and it is usually a good use of your time, but there are ways to increase the efficiency of this process.
Orientation training is a great example to use since so many safety professionals are the ones responsible for conducting the training. If you find yourself doing the orientation training on an as-needed basis or at the last minute, you should work with the hiring department or management to set specific days that orientation will be done.
For example, if your company hires employees often, pick a day or two of the week for when a new employee can be brought in for orientation training. If you hire less frequently, pick a few dates in the month.
If you can get management to commit to this practice, this allows you to have more control over your schedule. You will know what days you possibly have to train employees, and you can improve efficiency by training more new hires at once.
This same best practice can be applied to other responsibilities that are thrown at you at random times. Or it can be applied to things you have to do on a weekly or monthly basis by choosing a specific day that you plan on working on it.
Tip 2: Prepping Ahead of Time
An important factor in having control over your time is being prepared for your day or week. There are many different things you can do in order to be prepared ahead of time, depending on what needs to be done. Below are a few examples of prepping ahead of time.
If you are responsible for writing reports, producing newsletters, or creating safety training materials on a recurring basis, then you should produce templates to assist in expediting these processes. Another example is creating email templates for emails that you send out frequently to save time and energy from having to type everything out over and over again.
Prepping Materials Ahead of Time
A lot of time can be wasted due to scrambling to get materials printed when last-minute tasks pop up. By prepping materials that you know you need to use frequently, you can save time when a task comes up that you were not necessarily aware that you had to do.
This best practice will differ depending on the industry you are in and what tasks you need to do. To provide examples, I will use my past experience working as a Health and Safety Officer for a construction company. I will cover what I did for orientation training and job safety analysis forms that saved me a lot of time and headache.
Example: Prepping Orientation Training Materials
Whenever a new employee was hired for the company or a subcontractor was coming onsite to complete work for us, orientation training had to be done prior to being released to the field. The materials that were covered for the company hires and the subcontractors were different.
I had created an orientation checklist for each group, and then I would print off all of the paperwork that needed to be covered ahead of time. That way, if someone was brought in for training, I was not left scrambling to print the materials on short notice. I would simply grab the packets of paperwork for each person who needed to be trained.
Example: Prepping Job Safety Analysis Forms Ahead of Time
I was the individual who was primarily responsible for prepping JSAs onsite. We always had two or three daily JSAs that needed to be completed, so I would prep as much of those forms ahead of time whenever I had some downtime. Sometimes, I would have a couple of weeks’ worth ready to go.
The same can be done for tasks that are done less frequently, but you know you will use at some point. For example, whenever we needed a tire replaced on a piece of heavy equipment, a third-party vendor would come onsite to complete the work. A JSA needed to be filled out and signed off on prior to the start of work. I would prep some of these JSAs ahead of time and have them in my work truck.
If the vendor came onsite, I did not have to go down to my office to print and fill out the form. I simply met the vendor at the job trailer and covered the information with them so the work could begin as soon as possible.
Tip 3: Delegate Safety Responsibilities
Just because you are the safety manager does not mean you need to be doing all of the safety responsibilities. In fact, if you are the only one in the organization handling everything safety, you most likely will not make a meaningful improvement in your safety program that is sustained over time.
Some examples of delegating responsibilities:
- Leverage front-line supervisors. Front-line supervisors arguably have the most influence over employees when it comes to safety on a day-to-day basis. These individuals should have safety responsibilities. Examples could include coaching employees when safety rules are broken, leading daily toolbox talks, completing safety inspections, etc.
- Getting help with data entry. Just because you are in a safety role does not mean you need to be doing all of the safety-related data entry. Leverage administration help from other departments to be responsible for data entry tasks if you do not have a safety admin professional on your team.
- Involve management in the safety program. There are many ways to involve high-level managers in the safety program. Not only can this practice assist you in offloading some of your responsibilities but involving these individuals communicates to the entire organization that safety is important. Examples could include coaching employees when safety rules are broken, leading daily toolbox talks, creating safety newsletters, covering topics during orientation training, completing safety inspections, etc.
Tip 4: Say No
If you need to get more control over your time, you need to get used to saying NO. All too often, you get sucked away from more important tasks by saying yes to crap that you do not need to be a part of. Meetings are an easy example to look at. In my experience, the larger the organization, the more useless meetings you are looped into.
If you find yourself wasting time in meetings you do not need to be a part of, get out of as many of them as possible. Communicate to whoever is trying to get you to be a part of the meeting that your time is more wisely spent elsewhere.
It is common for safety professionals to be tasked with work that is well outside of anything safety-related. If you keep getting assigned work that is prohibiting you from making progress in the safety program, meet with management to delegate these responsibilities that align better with someone else in the organization.
There is a saying, “you cannot manage what you do not measure.” By understanding how you are currently spending your time, you can begin to improve how you are spending it. Use the information in this post to not only implement the actionable items listed but also to shift your thinking in how you approach your role.
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