Safety in Construction: What can openBIM Bring? pt 1


From BIM Journal. Click Here to Read Issue 1

Health and safety has evolved greatly over the last few years. Implementation of BIM and more precisely the transparency and collaborative qualities of openBIM really can assist practitioners in operating a safer environment for the workforce. Indeed, BIM’s role in enhancing the practical use of structured data and sharing of information is increasingly underpinning project success.

Crucially, this is not just restricted to the moment at which the project is completed. Rather it offers longer term benefits; securing health and safety best practice while aiding its implementation down the line[40]. Indeed openBIM’s collaborative opportunities really can enhance successful health and safety practice[41].

As the awareness of a transparent approach has intensified, openBIM’s role in the integration of health and safety best practice throughout the entire supply chain will undoubtedly support safer working environments on construction sites. Indeed, the HSE is keen to push the benefits of health and safety synergy with BIM.

Sooner rather than later we will see standards becoming commonplace where health and safety is enshrined in BIM specification[42]. The HSE is keen to publish a “how to” guide detailing the integration of CDM regulations and other safety issues into principle design making. It is crucial to BIM’s role in health and safety best practice that it takes into consideration the entire build process, especially incorporating initial design where risks can be identified and mitigated.


CDM requires designers to foresee risk. One of the nice things we have seen with BIM is how it makes that come alive by using a visual language to foresee a risk.

There are strong links between the optimisation of BIM across the supply chain and compliance with CDM regulations.”[43]



Authors Stefan Mordue and Roland Finch, in their book “BIM for Construction Health and Safety”[44] made the clearest case yet for openBIM’s potential to aid health and safety. Is it such a departure, they argued, to consider the implementation of health and safety within BIM given that its entire goal is to gather, use, interpret and transmit information.

Health and safety best practice is fundamentally about understanding the environment, sharing procedural approaches and mitigating risk by virtue of an informed knowledge pool[45]. openBIM can enhance this further because it supports a transparent, open workflow. This promotes participation regardless of the software tools used.

Mordue and Finch note that the while the commercial advantages are fairly obvious, the potential benefits to improved health and safety by reducing risk, accidents and deaths are so great as to be almost unquantifiable. The fact that openBIM creates a common language for widely referenced processes, which could in future be used more widely for risk management, not only intensifies the focus of health and safety in BIM but underpins transparent engagement and service evaluation as well.

Safety, as an integrated, prominent and recognisable part of the “digital construction” world is still in its infancy, but acknowledgement of its potential is growing. BIM encourages a good handover between clients and occupiers, ultimately promoting the building’s best use for its lifetime. This in turn translates to a proper, compliant, professional and most importantly a safe build. Furthermore, through openBIM, safety can be a part of a building’s development legacy; informing, enhancing and defining risk management. One commentator used the phrase “BIM equals safety by design”[42].

openBIM can be beneficial twofold: eliminating hazards in the pre-construction stage and, as a result, enhancing operational safety in construction. Indeed, openBIM can be employed to examine risks, determining potential hazards and eliminating or at least better preparing operational staff for the construction phase thereafter. Hazard and risk identification is leveraged further by technologies such as scan-to-BIM too.

Continues at pt 2 here...


Read both parts (and more) in BIM Journal