It’s well known that building information modeling (BIM) has set the bar high when it comes to saving time and money — the two project resources against which your construction progress and performance are typically measured. What may not be as well-known is BIM’s ability to protect another key project resource: your on-site team.
Promoting safety might seem to be more of an inadvertent byproduct of BIM’s overall capabilities rather than an intentional effort. But if we shift the focus to how to proactively use BIM to promote the safety of those in the field, we begin to see BIM in a whole new way.
Proactive hazard and error detection
Prevention is the best way to keep construction injuries from consistently ranking among the highest among OSHA’s annual accident statistics. This is where BIM has a clear advantage. But timing is key — because the best opportunity for its potential is at the design stage.
Simulating walkthroughs and fly throughs of the multi-dimensional model affords contractors and specialty subcontractors the chance to visualize the designed structure at “eye level,” from an aerial view and through walls, allowing them to identify any potential hazards or safety concerns — particularly those unique to their discipline — that otherwise wouldn’t have been detected until construction was well under way.
With BIM, you can check the model for construction issues before building has begun — including hard and soft clash detection as well as noncompliance with building codes — so there is enough time and opportunity to revise, evaluate and finalize design alternatives that resolve those issues. All of this translates into far less rework.
But what does this have to do with safety? High on-site injury rates often accompany late-stage rework. Under time pressure to redo the work by the completion date (and not put their own retainage at risk), there’s the increased likelihood of taking shortcuts and being lax about safety measures. Preventing these clashes from occurring in the first place can help bring down the accident rates.
Safety communication and information
Of course, you can’t avoid a hazard you don’t know about. One of BIM’s strengths is providing the two-way platform necessary for sharing critical real-time safety updates among project team members once construction is in progress.
Depending on the hazard, there may be the added benefit of presenting it visually to provide context and better perspective for how to address it. What this does is turn the BIM platform into an even more robust collaborative tool, enabling the appropriate construction disciplines to collectively manage the risk, with everyone referencing the same information and graphics in real time. It creates a transparent way to explore solutions in real time and provide proof of corrective action.
That same transparency opens up the platform as more than just a communication channel, though. It’s also a channel through which to access project-related safety information. That can include everything from procedures and protocols, to safety data specific to the linked elements within the BIM model, such as necessary precautions to take when handling certain materials.
Prefabrication design to reduce injury risk
Large or complex structures in particular present precarious construction scenarios for site crews who are often tasked with in-place construction and installation of intricate components or awkward building systems — involving ladders, scaffolding and tight spaces. The potential risk? Bodily injury at best or suffering a life-threatening fall at worst.
One effective way to prevent this is to instead turn to BIM to design a precise 3D model in a special manufacturing-friendly file that can be used to prefabricate these components and systems ahead of time. Once created, they can be set up as larger units on-site (on the ground, rather than entirely up high) and put into place using heavy machinery instead.
With accidents and injuries an unfortunate yet common part of the construction industry, it makes sense to find ways to turn that trend around by creating a safer jobsite environment and implementing preemptive safety measures through BIM. It also makes good financial sense in terms of less rework, fewer missed workdays and workers compensation claims.
While BIM represents a massive leap forward in jobsite and worker safety, it won’t eliminate every accident or injury. But it can be a solid addition to your existing on-site safety measures.
InEight Model is a BIM solution that can help you see the issues and clashes that require your attention, while providing you with actionable data throughout the life cycle of your project to optimize its overall efficiency. The company walks you through a demo to help you experience all the Model can do for you, your project team and your business. Request an InEight demo today.