SAIF Leader Rises to Construction Challenges
BY CHRISTINE TORRES
Published March 28, 2019, updated April 26, 2019
Senior construction safety consultant Melissa Diede is a relationship builder, a complex problem solver, and a collaborator. For more than 30 years, she’s been an intricate part of SAIF. SAIF is a nonprofit workers’ compensation insurance company in Oregon that serves many industries. It’s SAIF and Diede’s goals to break through industry challenges and make Oregon the safest and healthiest state to work in.
Construction is a hazard-rich work environment. Each project has its own set of challenges. Diede is proud of her latest success in partnering with the general contractor, architect, and project management team on safety during a two-year building renovation and expansion for SAIF. As a result of this partnership, there were no time-loss injuries during construction.
“We are very proud of this fact,” she said. “It’s an accomplishment for a project this size in this industry. It’s something we set as a vision from the very beginning of the project.”
As part of reinforcing construction safety, Diede applies powerful communication along with her adept experience in construction and solid management skills. Her extraordinary contributions and rich history in workplace safety and health earned her an award at the 2011 Oregon Governor’s Occupational Safety and Health (GOSH) Conference.
“I find that, whenever there’s a challenge or barrier, it’s an opportunity to circle back to our shared values,” she said. “Building trust, credibility, and success around these values early on helps to make safe and healthy workplace decisions when it counts the most.”
For Diede, safety management and operational excellence are inextricably linked. Safety should be integral in the way a company does business and at the core of what they do. Diede explains that construction safety is met through communication, establishing plans, and following through. She evaluates operations on five levels:
- Industry trends: This entails assessing exposures and controls for construction site safety.
- Communication: Evaluate occupational safety and health processes and exposures. Use a variety of methods and procedures. Consult on safety management techniques and loss-control methods.
- Agreements and action plans: Utilize and implement behavior-based safety approaches to enhance workplace safety cultures and reduce injuries in the workplace. Develop safety management activities and programs. Tailor them to meet company or project needs and assist them with implementation.
- Monitor and document progress: Make sure employers and employees are following the plan through a safety audit and safety inspections. Document necessary changes or accommodations. Identify problems and solutions, and outline recommendations and action plans.
- Coordinate, confer, consult, and collaborate: Improve loss ratios and business at all levels. Communicate information and recommendations on corrective action requirements. Collaborate with staff from the top down on construction safety management.
Diede said sometimes construction management is as simple as communicating at a high level, articulating what she envisions and ways to achieve success. Other times, she steps in to tackle a thorny issue, fulfills commitments, mentors, or champions success.
“I am constantly seeking new information to better understand the people, processes, and organizations I work with,” she said. “I’ve successfully worked with companies to improve their safety and health performance over time. It’s not about diagnosing a problem and dumping information—it’s the art of planned discovery in the consulting process. This means identifying quick wins, building positive momentum, and developing systemic integration of those improvements that can withstand personnel changes over time. This process improvement method also can transfer to production and quality which further strengthens safety.”