Understand the Risk

Understanding Risk Article


By Paul Duggan

I was very heartened by the work and positive impact of the BIMSafe Project when we were visiting the Court Theatre site in Christchurch a few weeks ago. The site manager and the services manager welcomed us with great enthusiasm for showcasing the role that BIM technology was playing in all stages of the project, and the safety benefits that went along with it. 

Health and Safety by Design & Efficient Installation

Being a theatre, the services are very large and complex, with a huge array of electrical, fire, lighting, sound, HVAC, and plumbing to consider.  The BIMSafe process started with the health and safety by design, where design changes were enabled by the ability to visualise the services in three dimensions and imagine how maintenance teams and theatre staff would interact with them.

The installation of the large LVL beams was also facilitated by BIM, with an elbow joint preassembled on the ground, and then large “L” shaped sections craned into place. These sections were manufactured according to the exact specifications of the model and fitted exactly into existing bolts attached to the steel. I watched as large timber beams were attached easily and safely with no remediation or difficult assembly required.

Daily Model Access – Improving Workflow and Decision-Making
The real gold in this visit was in talking to an electrician and a plumber working on the site, who both had a tablet in their tool kit. Each accessed the model daily to examine the work they had to do, and also the work of the other services around their work that they had to coordinate with. Many times they were able to make decisions around planning, sequencing, and safety by having a full understanding of their own work and the other services around them. Both mentioned specific changes they were able to make that would not have occurred without the use of the model, with safety implications fully considered before work started.

Enhancing Subcontractor Safety & Efficiency
The big strength of BIM is to enable a much greater understanding of the work and the risks associated with it. This is particularly advantageous to subbies, who have a disproportionate level of accidents and injuries on New Zealand Construction sites.

Sub-contractors face issues around hazard identification, risk perception, and risk tolerance. A 2021 study of 4,800 workers across 12 sub-trades concluded that construction workers were only able to identify 45% of the hazards they face during their working day. 35% are missed because of cognitive blind spots, and 20% because they are not reasonably identifiable before work starts. (Professional Safety Journal Dec 2021).

Risk perception and tolerance may also be different for SME’s. They typically spend less time on a given site, so are unaware of potential hazards. They also want to get their specific job done in a timely manner, and thus may have greater risk tolerance to complete the work quickly.

A BIM model and other digital tools can help alleviate most of these issues. A site flythrough can identify hazards on a specific site that sub-contractors may encounter during their work. The use of 360-degree cameras and site walks can allow real time safety issues to be flagged and resolved. The use of a BIM model greatly enhances subcontractor efficiency, as work can be planned and coordinated at any stage of construction.

All these processes result in less rework, less risky work, and a safer and more controlled work environment. A services manager on another site commented to us something along these lines. “There is a marked difference between sites which actively use digital technology and those that don’t. Both myself and my team know exactly what we will encounter when we get to site, what the current state of other work is, and exactly what tools and equipment we need to get the job done. This creates a better work environment, less onsite stress, and greater productivity and safety”.

What more do we want?

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