How BIM can improve safety on site?
We often hear about the remarkable potential of Building Information Modeling (BIM) in communication and collaboration in construction which could eventually result in boosted productivity and higher margins.
Nevertheless, BIM holds immense potential for construction and engineering in other areas, as well. Safety is, undoubtedly, one of the fields where BIM Services can make a big difference.
That is of paramount importance, if we consider that construction is one of the most dangerous industries to work in.
With all that in mind, we present today some of the reasons why BIM could play a decisive role in revolutionising safety on site.
Some stats about construction safety
Before we dig deeper into the different ways BIM can have a positive impact on construction safety, it would be a good idea to take a closer look at some stats and numbers concerning the hazards that workers have to face on the site on a day-to-day basis.
In a nutshell, here are some of the most eye-catching statistics about accidents and safety in the construction industry:
- Based on numbers of the ILO (International Labour Organization), almost 60,000 workers are fatally injured on a construction site every year.
- Falls appear as the number one fatal threat for people working on site. This fact triggers many questions about the safety measures on the field.
- During a 45-year career in construction, workers have a 0,5% possibility of getting involved in a fatal accident. That’s probably the highest percentage compared to all other industries.
- Poor experience or lack of training is seen as two of the main factors behind the vast majority of accidents in the construction industry. This assumption is supported by the fact that 60% of the accidents in the sector happen in the first year of employment on site (based on BLS – Bureau of Labor Statistics).
- In total, 20% of fatal accidents on a working space are connected to the construction industry.
The role of BIM in improving safety on site
The numbers mentioned above prove on an emphatic way that there is still a long way to go for construction in terms of workplace safety. BIM can be part of this solution as it enables better communication between the different sides and offers a better overview of the construction site.
In short, this is how BIM can raise the safety standards in the industry and introduce a new era on the field:
- Easier hazard prediction and prevention
Through the power of data and the open collaborative model, project management teams in construction would be able to stay one step ahead of everything that happens on site.
The full virtual visualisation of the built structure can help the construction team to locate hazardous situations before they even become apparent. Sometimes as early as at the design process.
It goes without saying that a safety by design approach could help the construction industry to act faster and improve in terms of training and onsite preparation. As BIM technology progresses, it is expected that the industry will invest more time and resources in that direction.
- Safety tours
As a natural continuation of the first point, virtual safety tours are considered to be one of the biggest contributions of BIM in construction. More analytically, thanks to the virtual model of the building, the project team would be able to search the entire building and identify any potential sources of danger.
Furthermore, such a model would enable them to conduct safety stress tests which would provide them with a more complete idea regarding the limits of the built structure. To put it simply, it would allow the testing of different hazardous scenario on a virtual level.
It doesn’t take much to understand that such a possibility would allow stakeholders in construction to develop a great number of safety plans and be more prepared in case that a crisis situation appears on the field.
- Offsite construction and prefabrication
Offsite construction and modularisation are continuously gaining more attention in the course of the last two decades in construction. The reason is, of course, the lower cost and the better prediction of the different project phases.
A more standardised building approach would eventually have a great effect on safety, too. The ability to move many of the onsite construction activities to a warehouse or a factory eliminate automatically a considerable number of hazards on site (eg. working at heights).
What’s more, prefabrication equals a repetitive and exhaustively defined process which in the long run could decrease dramatically the room for errors (eg. the use of specific type of tools and equipment).
- Fact-based analysis of an accident
No matter how careful a construction team is, the possibility of an accident will always be there. If, for any reason, this accident actually happens then BIM can play a critical role in analysing the accident with precision and identifying the true factors behind it.
Being able to virtually replicate the accident would help the project team to take all the necessary measures in order to ensure that such an incident won’t happen again.
This would eventually lead to better-defined guidelines around safety and a better understanding of the numerous hazards on site.
Lastly, BIM could contribute to the quick resolution of legal conflicts related to construction safety as it would offer to the two sides all the data they need in order to figure out the person (or people) responsible behind an accident.
- 5. Real-time collaboration
Working on an open collaborative model means that all members of the team have always access to an up-to-date version of the reality on the field. This is of vital importance if we consider that it would leave no room for misunderstanding and therefore no room for mistakes.
In addition, everybody can easily get informed about the different specifications for the project and can have a good grasp about the onsite logistics.
Knowing with accuracy, for example, when and what type of equipment and vehicles will be on the site allow the workers to plan accordingly and put together a functional safety strategy. This could translate to safer onsite maintenance and better material management (eg. wider lanes for the safe delivery of the equipment/materials).
Wrapping it up
All in all, it is evident that Building Information Modeling can change dramatically the way construction plans and operates in terms of safety. The virtual representation of every stage in a project will result in a safer onsite process and will lay the groundwork for higher levels of predictability and standardisation in the construction industry.
About the author: Anastasios Koutsogiannis is Content Marketing Manager at LetsBuild.
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