How BIM Improves Project Safety

This week we are writing about the benefits of Building Information Modelling and its affect it has on site safety. Although safety records generally are getting better, much more can still be done to reduce injuries, risks, falls and fatalities on site. Here we have a brief look at BIM and its positive effects its had on projects even before site personnel have reached the site.

BIM makes 3D modeling feel like it last century.

Building Information Management offers 4D digital visualization of the asset and the hazards involved. What this means is that the software takes the asset design plan and pairs it with scheduling to show exactly how the project will appear and what hazards may be involved at any point in time.

Being able to visualize the workspace provides the most detailed “pre-construction” look of the project and lets everyone see exactly what will be going on, making it easier to eliminate safety hazards and to plan an efficient workflow.

Defining BIM

BIM is a process that combines CAD technology with sophisticated digital representations of building plans and blueprints. This 3D representation is then combined with a 4th dimension – time – to let designers, engineers, and builders put together an efficient construction schedule while avoiding or mitigating safety issues and overscheduling. Some consider a 5th dimension, cost, but when BIM is used correctly, the cost will decrease anyway.

If you want the Associated General Contractors of America definition, here it is:

BIM: an object-oriented building development tool that utilizes 5-D modeling concepts, information technology and software interoperability to design, construct and operate a building project, as well as communicate its details.

How Does BIM Improve Safety?

Through Visual Representation

It isn’t just the designer and builder who benefit from the ability to visualize the building in various stages of completion. Workers who can look at the model on a daily basis find that it helps them plan their work processes better by giving them a better feel for what has already been done, the number of workers expected in a single area, and where potential hazards lie.

New workers find the model an excellent source for getting oriented and seeing the working conditions before they enter the site. They can also find out about processes for that specific site more quickly and clearly.

Through Better Task Preparation

BIM has the capability to focus down to the task level where it is easier for workers to identify risks and make plans for eliminating or mitigating the risk while maintaining an efficient workflow. Task processes can be changed to correlate better with the actual events onsite.

Through Identification of Potential Hazards

4D representations can show traffic flow, erection sequence, and other construction activities. Whenever the schedule changes, new information becomes available on how the changes impact worker safety and planning.

While an experienced construction manager may be able to determine some of this information, nothing beats seeing it for yourself so you can plan your own task processes and keep up to date. Improved communications generally mean improved safety.

Safety Coordination with BIM

Using BIM encourages prefabrication, meaning many activities will take place in a manufacturing environment where the same work is repeated every day in a well-planned and tested process. Pre-manufacturing eliminates those same processes from the jobsite. In doing this the risks are reduced on site as well as a saving in material waste.

Fewer trips up and down ladders, less work at height, and shorter periods of working in the heat are further advantages of prefabrication. There is also less need for onsite welding and cutting, which come with their own hazards of burns, cuts, and ergonomically poor conditions. In addition, fewer pieces of large equipment and machinery are required onsite, eliminating the possibility of accidents related to them.

Modelling software does more than represent the structure and worksite. It provides a method of assigning ownership of safety practices and enforcement on a daily or hourly basis, or by task. Without ownership, there is nobody to take responsibility for handling safety issues, whether in enforcing safe practices or in managing any injuries.

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Managing Safety on the Jobsite

Outside the hazards of erecting the structure itself, BIM can help with other areas of the site as well.

  • Determining material storage locations including the proximity of safety equipment such as fire hydrants or extinguishers, as well as distance from existing structures.
  • Calculating the slope, entrance, exit, and landing distance for each ramp.
  • Erosion and sedimentation control requirements and locations.
  • Protection for pedestrians in the area.

BIM makes it easier to find and count floor penetrations, edges requiring fall protection, and other requirements so the appropriate amount of equipment and materials can be ordered and onsite at the right time.

BIM is the logical extension of 2D plans, technology, and safety practices. Years of construction have helped the industry identify hazards. Technology has given you a way to see them in detail and in three dimensions. Safety issues have higher visibility and can be planned for before you even break ground.

Author Bio:

Steve Wright works for our friends at Whirlwind Steel Buildings, a manufacturer of pre-engineered steel buildings and components. Whirlwind Steel buildings are manufactured and designed to meet the highest quality standards. To learn more, visit – whirlwindsteel.com

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