BIM for Health and Safety Reports Released

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BIMSafe is pleased to announce that it has released two new reports assessing the use of BIM (Building Information Modelling) for Health and Safety (H&S).

The reports focus on the Design and Construction phases in a project and provide a survey of the international research in these areas which could be applied to the NZ market.

Design Phase Report

The design phase report identifies that Building Information Modelling (BIM) has an established role for H&S. Safety in Design approaches can be adapted to the significant information, which is available in a BIM model, which enhances the ability to practice these approaches.

The report describes three technological advances which the international research and case studies show can have a significant impact on H&S at the design phase.

These promising technologies: provide safety rule checks based on a BIM model; allow for formalised safety in design knowledgebases based on expertise from all in the industry; and support risk assessment from the design BIM model.

While these technologies require significant investment, often at the national level to provide a complete solution, the report identifies simpler approaches that can be implemented by all in the design phase. The report recommends a concentration on the following four areas:

  • Provide 3D and 4D visualisations to all stakeholders in a project, to allow interrogation of the evolving design for health and safety issues. Collaboration on hazard mitigation across the project team can be supported by more widespread use of BIM as the design evolves and iterates towards construction. Many tools are available in the marketplace to support these functions. Examples are BIM 360 and Navisworks.
  • Use 4D BIM to analyse schedules to ensure safety measures are in place in a timely manner. Tools such as Navisworks support this process.
  • Analyse the digital analogue of the designed building through the application of H&S requirements, knowledge banks and legislation to identify hazards and non-compliance. Tools such as Solibri Model Checker allow for rules to be defined, checked and visualised against a BIM model.
  • Generate safety plans and evacuation plans automatically from the 4D BIM model. Tools such as BIM 360 Field allow for this functionality.

Construction Phase Report

The construction phase report identifies that Building Information Modelling (BIM) has many applications for health and safety and can support a range of activities. Four key areas are addressed in the report: 1) Hazard identification, 2) Scenario planning, 3) Communication and training, and 4) Monitoring and reporting.

While the development of BIM has specific needs and challenges to support each of these areas, the majority of the requirements and recommendations that can be drawn from the research literature apply across the board. Key findings include:

  • Tools to support many of the uses of BIM for H&S are already available in the industry. Current BIM tools provide many opportunities for using BIM in H&S applications; BIM is a powerful tool for communication and collaboration; this will have as much impact in H&S as it has in other aspects of BIM use in the design and construction process. Some limitations exist, however, in that not all tools are capable of interoperating directly with the BIM model or with other required tools.
  • Immediate BIM-mediated H&S improvements can be obtained through a focus on people and practice. Ensuring modelling has been completed with health and safety needs in mind will extend the value of BIM for H&S. For example, an increased amount of detail is required in a model if hazards are to be represented effectively, including temporary works and construction equipment. The communication potential of BIM can be expanded through ensuring a greater range of people have knowledge of and access to the model, beyond the central management team to site workers and sub-contractors. Social and cultural factors will influence the acceptance and uptake of BIM tools, and workers will need training and support to become familiar and comfortable with the use of BIM in their daily activities.
  • 4D BIM provides considerably more value in H&S activities than 3D BIM. Health and safety on site exists within a dynamic process; modelling ongoing site changes and stages using 4D BIM provides access to greater recognition of hazards arising in the process, and opportunities to plan for and manage them.
  • BIM does not replace the expertise of safety specialists but leverages their knowledge and expertise. While some safety knowledge and documentation can be embedded in BIM models for use by anyone in the construction team, safety specialists are needed to identify key hazards, check automated processes, and make decisions on training and management. BIM is a support tool and may help extend their view of what is happening on a project, but their expertise is essential.
  • More complex uses of BIM in H&S may require additional development and programming support. While many tools are available already and designed to interface with existing BIM software, linking BIM to other tools through VR, simulation or sensors is likely to require specialist programming skills. This may be achieved through interaction with software companies developing new BIM tools, or one-off programming tasks within a company or project. Ideally these programmers should also have construction knowledge or work closely with construction experts to ensure that any tools are relevant and useable by the construction team.
  • A more automated use of BIM, for example in rule-checking and code-compliance activities, requires organisational and national development of knowledgebases. A national knowledgebase would allow code checking against national safety standards and practices. Also at a national level, data on the severity and frequency of different accidents or H&S breaches would be worthwhile, to allow projects to focus on the most notable causes of incidents and thus gain the biggest improvement from their actions. At an organisational level, companies should maintain their own knowledgebase to record lessons learnt regarding hazards arising and approaches for dealing with them. A cumulative approach would allow progressive improvement of safety practices and provide a valuable resource for other H&S initiatives, not just BIM.

For those interested in full details of what is possible for design and construction phases these reports are freely available from the BIMSafe website here

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