How can BIM improve health and safety in construction?

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On mid-September 2015, during a heavy rainfall and thunderstorm, a crawler crane collapsed onto the Masjid al-Haram, the Grand Mosque in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. The disastrous crane crash incident resulted in the death of 111 people and 394 injuries (Syed, 2016).

The construction industry is famous in its unfortunate repetition of site injuries and fatalities. Numerous reports demonstrate of these incidents as follows:

In the USA, 828 labourers died in the year 2013 Per the U.S. Department of Labor. Moreover, the US claims around 815 lives as well as more than 200,000 nonfatal injuries and illnesses each year in the construction industry. (Barista, 2015).

In Europe, the construction sector is one of the major sectors that employ quite a large percentage of people in many nations. In the UK, for instance, the construction sector accounts for 6% of the entire workforce. Statistics indicate that workers in the sector suffer from injuries and illnesses related to the construction industry. During 2015/16 years the Health and Safety Executive reported that in the Great Britain, there were 43 fatal injuries caused to workers during construction, a similar rate as the previous five years (HSE, 2017). The current rate of injuries caused during construction in the UK is 1.94 per 100,000 workers. In general, Europe reported a fatality rate of 23 per annum per every 1000 workers in the year 2012, whereby these deaths occurred in the workplace specifically the construction sector (HSE, 2017).

Finally, In the Middle East, 38% of construction deaths in Dubai occurred because of inadequate supervision, with a further 25% due to lack of training. While 48% of occupational injuries in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia happened in the construction industry in 2011, and 33.2% of construction injuries in Kuwait were because of falls from height in 2007 (Safety Media Ltd, 2015).

Jobsite injuries and fatalities sources

Due to the big injuries and deaths in construction industry comparing to other industries safety experts have looked into more details about this issue and found that more than half of those were caused by the “Fatal Four” which can summarise into three categories as follows:

  1. Falls: from roofs ladders and scaffoldings (36.5%);
  2. Soft tissue injuries: from material handling and other objects (12.6%);
  3. Burns: from hot work, such as welding and electrocuted (8.6%).

(Alderton, 2015) and (Barista, 2015).

How could health and safety avoidance effect on the construction field?

Bad safety plan program has lost the USA for every $1 million spent on the construction of a skyscraper one foreman death. Dr Yong Cho, an associate professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School, add additional losses which include delays in construction and losing the contractor reputation and name.


Issues related to health and safety in construction

Dr Cho refers the matter to the separation between safety and planning in construction; he adds that "safety is not included because project managers and safety experts do not work together" (Alderton, 2015) this could be the cause of using the traditional way in managing projects. The other two gaps are what John Tocci, CEO of Tocci Building Companies explains are responsibility and enforcement. Tony O'Dea, the Director of Corporate Safety at Gilbane’s, says this could be fixed by "assigning roles and responsibilities within the subcontractor agreements, and this would ensure safety plan” (Barista, 2015). All that has been mentioned led New York municipality in 2012 to utilise Building Information Modelling (BIM) so as to allow the construction industry to come up with a more efficient plan for health and safety in the workplace. Because of the program. The New York City Department of Buildings responsible for enforcing the city’s building codes and other regulations can virtually tour sites, oversee the progress of any building construction step-by-step, visualise any complexities and challenges concerning the buildings in progress as well as checking if they comply with the basic building codes before any manual review (Alderton, 2015).

BIM could eliminate hazard risk

Hardin and Mccool (2015) argues that BIM is just starting to scratch the surface of how it can be used for better safety. They add that this is a broad area for improvement in construction with technology, and the potential is too large to ignore. The three Jobsite injuries and fatalities sources explained awhile could be minimised by implementing BIM. The technology helps in conducting a pre-construction risk assessment for building and construction projects as well as the execution of safety practices within the job site. BIM also ensures that teams make use of offsite prefabrication, preassembly and other “prevention through design” approaches. These methods help to eliminate trips on lifts and ladders used during construction as well as thousands of hours of burning work and other construction activities. Tocci adds that BIM allows project teams to undertake daily sequencing of projects to accurately define temporary site exposures, including a gap of time when each becomes a safety risk (Barista, 2015).

Can integrating construction hazards into BIM software help to improve safety in construction?

Two major research projects could be applied in the construction industry and essentially help save costs and life on construction sites. One of these projects was implemented by Cho with Kyungki Kim, a PhD student, and explores the design and development of a BIM-safety integration framework that makes use of rule-based safety checking algorithms that automatically identifies safety hazards and then liaises with the members of the team.

Cho’s conducted the second research with another PhD student JeeWoong Park to explore the impacts of iBeacon-based safety tracking system that gives workers’ mobiles the ability to determine and track their location on the job site. As a result of leveraging such information in BIM, workers can receive timely alerts on their devices at moments when there is an imminent danger.

What are project phases possible to implement BIM for safety purpose?

According to Saeedfar (2017), BIM is a technological advancement represented in the form of 3D (spatial/visuals) and 4D (scheduling) that can be used by construction companies for safety purposes, rather than using the manual safety processes. BIM functions in two main phases:

The first phase is the live safety tracking whereby BIM can be used to keep track of objects, crews and construction processes by keeping data running and active. In this case, BIM uses sensors and tags technologies so as to capture various sets of data such as the area occupied by workers, congestion of workers in hazardous areas, and the path for workers, equipment and materials, etc. The data collected can thus be used to monitor safety models in BIM. The second phase involves Building Safety Models. After the required data has been captured in the previous phase, it is thus used to create safety plans in IBM design and authoring tools. Computational methods are then used to create safety algorithms which are then used to design effective plans to control important safety plans such as preventing space conflicts, congestion of workers and equipment, recognising the hazardous areas on the site among other aspects. All of the collected data can be carried in the designer models, and the effective safety plans can be used for other projects in the future.

In conclusion, designing and implementing BIM in construction sites is an effective safety prevention practice that can be applied at all times so as to avoid the costly and painful experience of cure in the sites. In addition to installing the technology, it is also important to ensure that there is an increased staff awareness on how to use the technology and help reduce accidents further. BIM helps to revolutionise the aspect of health and safety in construction sites.


Alderton, M. (2015). BIM and Construction Research Prevent Injuries, Save Lives. [Online] Redshift. Available at: https://redshift.autodesk.com/construction-research/  [Accessed 25 Jan. 2017].

Barista, D. (2015). BIM for safety: How to use BIM/VDC tools to prevent injuries on the job site. [Online] Building Design + Construction. Available at: https://www.bdcnetwork.com/bim-safety-how-use-bimvdc-tools-prevent-injuries-job-site  [Accessed 25 Jan. 2017].

Hardin, B. and Mccool, D. (2015). BIM and construction management Proven Tools, Methods and Workflows. 2nd ed. Indianapolis, Ind.: Wiley Pub., p.236.

HSE. (2017). Statistics - Construction sector. [Online] Available at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/industry/construction/  [Accessed 27 Jan. 2017].

Saeedfar, A. (2017). Blog: Role of Safety in BIM. [Online] Assemble Systems. Available at: http://assemblesystems.com/blog/role-of-safety-in-bim/  [Accessed 25 Jan. 2017].

Safety Media Ltd. (2015). Key Middle East Safety Statistics | Safety Media. [Online] Available at: http://www.safetymedia.co.uk/me/middle-east-safety-statistics/  [Accessed 25 Jan. 2017].

Syed, I. (2016). Makkah crane tragedy: Trial to start soon - Saudi Gazette. [Online] Saudi Gazette. Available at: http://saudigazette.com.sa/saudi-arabia/makkah-crane-tragedy-trial-start-soon/ [Accessed 29 Jan. 2017].

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