The amount of paperwork and record keeping involved in the safety department can have you feeling more like an administrator vs. manager.  Because we have onboarding documentation, training records, claims reports, injury files, and the list goes on.

It is very easy to get bogged down with filing as well as administrative tasks.

Do you really need to be the person who changes the posters, passes out the newsletters, or files the documentation?  Is that what you do best?!  NO!!

You are a Safety Manager – What you do best is stopping incidents from happening in the first place!

But thanks to the old saying, “ïf it’s not documented, you didn’t do it,” we can easily lose focus on what we spend our time on.


The difference between manager and administrator is that a manager is the one making the decisions and creating the vision.  And administrator supports the manager by doing tasks that don’t involve the subject matter knowledge.

Not that administrators are not knowledgeable in their own subject matter.

It is about letting the person with the best skills for the job take the lead.  I have a close friend who has administrative skills that will blow you away, but I would never expect her to write the training program for a hot work permit.

But we continuously ask Safety Managers to do administrative work.


The first step in reducing your administrative workload is to take a look at what you are doing.  Make a list of all of the tasks you do in a typical day, week, and month. And estimate how long you spend on each task.

I know the list is long and varied, but knowing exactly what you do and how long it takes helps to quantify your work.

Look at each task and put a star next to the ones that require a subject matter expert like yourself to complete.  These will usually be things like developing training, writing policies, conducting audits – you get it, right?

This is the list that Safety Managers are GREAT at.  Unfortunately, we can’t just delegate 100% of the rest away to someone else.  Most companies expect you to do a little admin work.

But we can reduce some of it.


Every one of us understands that with any job, there is going to be paperwork.  In the Safety Department, much of that paperwork is under legal and regulatory scrutiny and review.

We have to make sure we have a signature for everything, that every “i” is dotted and every “t” is crossed.

Unfortunately, I have seen this get way out of hand.  Where there is a separate piece of paper for every little thing.  So HR files have become massive and the paperwork expand.

But, for what?  How often is this paperwork every really used?

So let’s get rid of some of it.


Take these steps to reduce the amount of paperwork you are accumulating:

  1. Make a list or gather all the documents that the Safety Department that requires a signature on or a form to be completed. Don’t forget about that stack for the new hires or the daily equipment inspections.
  2. For each piece, ask yourself these questions and make adjustments:
    1. Why is this a requirement?
    2. What result am I getting out of it?
    3. Is there proof that it works as expected? (would it REALLY stand up to legal scrutiny)
    4. Is it similar to another document?
    5. Can it be combined with another document?
    6. Can it be simplified?

3. Daily paperwork can possibly be combined into a weekly document that is filled out daily but filed weekly. Same for weekly paperwork; that combined into monthly or quarterly.

4. For training records, move to a roster instead of individual documents. I prefer a pre-printed one where employees sign by their names.  You can even have a monthly new hire training roster to reduce the new hire paperwork.

5. Stop quizzing for every little thing.

A. The purpose of quizzes is to test the trainee’s understanding of the material. However, most times the quizzes are never scored, reviewed, or re-taken.  And many times they reviewed questions and answers directly after the quiz allowing for trainees to fill in the answers.  This will never hold up in court as proof that they understood the training.

B. A better judge of training effectiveness is to conduct follow-up observations of a department or employee. This shows that they are applying what they learned directly in their work.

C. Some regulations require quizzes, and some work activities are so safety-sensitive that you need to include a quiz in training. Limit your quizzes to these situations and you will have the time to do the quizzes right as well as limit your paperwork.


We now have a list of all the tasks you do, and we have eliminated as much of the paperwork as we can.

Reevaluate your task list and look at the items that someone making minimum wage can do.  These are tasks that someone with a high school education can complete.  Highlight those tasks.

These tasks are usually, filing, changing posters, filling first aid kits, and such.

Next, mark the tasks that a skilled administrative assistant could complete.  Such as compiling and editing the newsletter, designing postings & training materials, scheduling, running reports, etc.

Add up the estimated time for all these tasks and multiple by either minimum wage or the average wage of an administrator.

What is your hourly rate if you were working 40 hours a week?  (divide your salary by 2,080)

Now compare the difference of what the company is paying extra for you to complete these tasks:

XXX hours * min. wage = A

XXX hours * admin wage = BTotal hours of the two * your wage = C

C – A+B = Extra $$$ the company is spending for you to do what someone else can do

(multiply that by 52 weeks to really see the impact)

Is it a good business decision to pay you your hourly rate to do administrative tasks that take you away from what you were hired to do: stop incidents from happening in the first place.


The problem is that we don’t have a choice most of the time.  The company can’t afford to hire you an administrator, and you end up having to do it all.

This is where you need to develop some delegating skills.

Have a conversation with the management team about what exactly you do, the amount of administrative time it is costing you, and the ideal ratio of subject matter expert vs. administrator you would like to see.  I favor 80%/20%.

That would mean that 8 hours a week, you will focus on administrative tasks.

You can ask if you can delegate some of the tasks you can’t get to or the ones that would take up your safety management time to someone else.

Maybe, it’s not a dedicated administrator you need, but several departments take on some of the tasks.  After all, safety is everyone’s job – right?  Look towards these areas to help.

  • Quality
  • HR
  • Customer Service
  • The Receptionist
  • An Admin from another department
Another option is to get the employees involved.  Employee involvement is always the goal of a world-class safety program.

Delegating tasks for employees to work on is 15-30 minute chunks can be an option:

  • Filling the first aid kits
  • Verifying safety work order completion
  • Inspecting exit lights
  • Reviewing training materials
  • Etc…

If your company still won’t budge and insists on continuing to pay you to do administrative work, don’t give up.  This can be brought up again.

I also like to prioritize my work – see my post about prioritizing when everything is important.

Sometimes you just need to let that administrative work get behind so you can focus on what really matters.



Right now, make a list of everything you do and mark it as SME, hourly work, admin.  See how much time you are spending doing what you do best.

Take a look at your paperwork and consolidate and eliminate what you can.

Make plans to bring the reality of the situation into the light with your management team.  I promise you, they don’t understand what goes into all that documentation.

Now It’s Your Turn

I have a feeling that you have a BSF (Best Safety Friend).  Use those handy share buttons and share this post with that person who feels they are a glorified administrator as well.

Hi, I'm Brye (rhymes with sky)!  I am a self-proclaimed safety geek with two decades of general industry safety experience.  Specializing in bringing safety programs to a world-class level and building a safety culture, I have trained and coached many safety managers, just like you, on how to effectively manage workplace safety in the real world.   I would love to help you too.

Get started with my weekly newsletters: