Can BIM help construction projects in extreme or hazardous locations?
Did you know that over 100 workers died during the construction of the Hoover Dam? The scale of the effort and the challenging location was found responsible for many of these tragic deaths.
It’s largely true that the face of the construction industry hasn’t changed dramatically since the early 20th century. But small and significant changes have been seeping into every area even as we speak here. Innovation has started infusing everything within the industry from the hardware of our machines to the software being increasingly used. But the construction industry is a dynamic work environment, requires the use of heavy equipment, and carries some inherent risks. Much of construction involved environments that are inherently hazardous. Think bridges, tunnels, oil rigs, and roads across harsh landscapes. These hazards contribute to an unacceptably high injury and illness rate among those who work in construction and this has become one of the major concerns for the industry.
Construction companies and contractors have been implementing safety tools and programs to decrease and even prevent work-related hazards on construction sites in hazardous locations.
Research has shown that it becomes harder to influence or prevent construction injuries as the project progresses and that “the most effective form of safety programme elements occurs at the planning and preconstruction phases of a project.”
But this post is about another tool that can help with safety on such construction sites located in hazardous environments. That tool is Building Information Modeling (BIM). BIM-based software models could be a significant asset when used by design and construction professionals for site layout and safety planning.
BIM enables the company to create plans in sequential order alongside a 4D model. Having a 4D BIM model helps visualize the job site and work through various areas and events. It shows where there could be risks and where the weak points are with more accuracy. These can be taken into consideration when putting together the site.
That apart, Building Information Modeling (BIM) can be used in worker security training, safety planning, job hazard analysis, mishap investigation, and facility and maintenance stage safety.
BIM and Improving Site Safety at Hazardous Locations:
The attributes of the modern construction business, its projects and site activities are very challenging because of the complicated interchange of numerous partners and organizations. This complicated set up is also a test for site safety management. BIM technology-powered new tools, communication possibilities, and strategies addressing site security aspects can help construction companies advance to a higher-quality of site safety planning.
BIM uses include visualization, scope explanation, logistics planning, coordination, collision identification and avoidance, structure approval, construction planning, analysis, virtual mock-ups and what-if scenario visualizations. This information can be tightly integrated with relevant information about the hazards of the location to deliver insights and predictions about what could go wrong. The combination of information can help safety managers and supervisors check safety arrangements across the site in different conditions. Each item can be validated and married to additional information such as the location of safety equipment, areas of storage of potentially hazardous materials, and, even, temporary obstructions created during the ongoing construction.
BIM provides safety managers with the ability to perform advanced sequencing and dimensional analysis to track and oversee site logistics and layout. The information can be used to identify potential patterns, problems, and hazards around the site. This could pave the way for coming up with alternate solutions to minimize risk on site. For instance, if a large portion of the structure is created off-site in a restricted environment, this implies fewer risks on the job site. Slips, trips, falls, and other issues can be avoided as the work is being done under controlled conditions on a construction site. This can also lead to lower risk in various risky activities in hazardous conditions. This could also, potentially, reduce the need to store equipment and material on site. Essentially, less work and less material at hazardous locations equals less risk.
BIM also allows for better integration of design processes. The outcome is that designers taking advantage of BIM can create and demonstrate design in manners that have been unimaginable in practice until now. These capabilities also facilitate better coordination and collaboration between teams on-location. BIM prevents such errors by enabling dispute detection where the computer model highlights which parts of the structure are wrongly in contact. There are fewer clashes, less need for rework, and fewer occasions to address issues “on the fly” and under time pressure. This reduced vulnerability and improves the potential for compliance with laid down safety norms.
In essence, this is the crux of BIM for improving worker safety in such locations. BIM defines the virtual development of a facility before its actual construction. This allows a “risk-free” pre-analysis that allows construction companies to reduce vulnerability, improve safety, and simulate and analyse the potential effects of all actions. And that is central to improving safety across construction sites located in hazardous locations.