How BIM can improve construction safety records

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is all about creating digital models of construction projects. It gives architects, engineers and others the ability to build 3D models that help to plan, design, construct, and manage buildings and their associated infrastructure.

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In the construction industry, safety is, of course, always an issue. There are over 50,000 non-fatal injuries to workers each year and many people suffer work-related ill-health. Although the trend is downward and the industry is much safer than it used to be, there are ever present risks and therefore safety still needs to be taken seriously. How then can BIM technology help to address these risks?

Using the virtual world

Because the use of BIM allows the creation of a virtual model of a project, it opens up a number of opportunities to improve safety on site. For example, aspects of the construction can be simulated in the virtual world before they are attempted on site. It’s also possible to run rule sets across a model to look for common hazards and allow measures to be put in place to avoid them.

Using BIM technology in this way means that steps can be taken to reduce the risks before work commences. This might involve, for example, prefabricating components for HVAC systems so that they can be hoisted into place rather than having to be assembled on site.

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This virtual model can also be used retrospectively. If any unexpected accidents or risks have occurred, they can be recreated in the BIM model to give opportunities to learn how they happened and allow processes to be amended to avoid similar events happening in future.

Respecting the rules

The construction industry is subject to many different rules and regulations. These may include local planning requirements, and where safety is concerned, the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations. The latter deal with what workers need to do to protect themselves and others while at work.

These regulations can be programmed into BIM systems, allowing businesses to manage the risks. BIM can identify the risks and help to plan how the work should be carried out so that they can be minimised. It can also support the creation of information for workers, so they can be kept up to date with the risk involved in a particular job.