Updated: Jan 23, 2019
Architecture, Engineering, Construction and Operation (AECO) is a labor-intensive industry. Compared to the manufacturing sector the AECO industry is yet to witness the wonders of automation at the site. Construction of any built environment facility is largely dependent upon human resource at the site and is indigenous to the development of any nation. It takes intensive managerial and technical expertise to come up with a quality infrastructure to serve the intended purposes.
Building Information Modelling (BIM) provides huge respite from complexities arising out of management and technology. Nowadays BIM is gradually becoming indispensable for carrying out any infrastructural development. Organizations across the globe are gradually incorporating implementation of BIM in their projects.
BIM technology, processes, and protocols are now gaining popularity all around the world (see figure 1) as it is instrumental in providing real-time analysis of the building facility during its entire lifecycle. It expedites design development in concurrence with the brief and scope definition affirmed upon among stakeholders. BIM has been known to facilitate the development of design, schedule and budget control for entire project’s lifecycle. Apart from materials and equipment deployed at the site, BIM has the potential to be a blessing for workers deployed directly at the construction site. We all are aware of the challenges and hazards that are indigenous to any marvel of construction activity. The threats and dangers are not only with respect to costs or schedule overrun but also with respect to safety and health of personnel deployed at the site during execution.
Records of various fatal and non-fatal accidents at the site suggest the need for a sound and alert monitoring and review system for health and safety of workers involved in construction. Numerous incidents about falling of workers from scaffolding, falling of roof of temporary structures on people working at site, burns, cuts, fractures are often reported. Accidental yet direct contact of body parts-skin, eyes with health hazardous materials-curing compounds, adhesives lead to serious health issues. These not only lead to loss of productivity of manpower but also lowers the morale of human resource.
If we consider all the construction site accidents, it has been acknowledged fall from height leads to 48% serious injuries and 30% fatalities (Nadhim et al. 2016). Construction sector in the USA reported a total of 937 injuries in 2015 stirring due to factors-violence and injuries by persons/ animals-32, transportation-226, fires & explosion-17, falls, slips, trips-364, exposure to harmful substances/ environments-138, contact with objects & equipments-159. (CFOI, 2015). As per an empirical study an estimate of 38 fatal accidents occurring per day in the Indian construction market. Because of the growing seriousness with regards to the implementation of strict regulation by various departmental agencies, there has been a decline in the number of accidents. Records from South Australia shows accident falling from about 2400 in the year 2002 to less than 1000 in the year 2013 (Hosseini et al. 2015). The rationale behind this data to manifest close to 0% accident rates with whatever best we can. As many as 43 fatal injuries reported in Great Britain for the year 2015-16 (Leigh, 2016). Many of the developing nations lack an effective mechanism to keep a track of mishaps happening at sites, subsequently jeopardizing health & safety initiatives.
The above statistics reported worldwide compels industry to contemplate on the enhancement of safety. A question arises, “How accidents can be averted proficiently during the project’s execution?”
Obviously, one school of thought is proper training of manpower to perform their work safely and properly. The other being providing Personal Protection Equipments’ (PPEs) to the site personnel. However, this alone does not eliminate the dangers inherent in construction activities. Not involving aspects related to health & safety at the site during the designing stage itself jeopardizes the safety of the workforce.
As we had discussed BIM technology, processes, and protocols integration with the AECO projects and for the accidental vulnerability at the site, technology can help monitor and prevent such adversities. BIM has been evolving rapidly as a facilitating tool for time, cost and resource saving. So, “How BIM can help us in ensuring the safety of workers at the site?” is the main objective being focused upon these days.
BIM can help simulate the digital data served to it and present a three-dimensional view (3D View) of the intended facility. This operational attribute of BIM can be utilized to develop an effective site layout plan. Allocation of spaces for required facilities minimizes unwanted contact of unrelated objects and workers. This will not only help to maintain uniqueness and purpose of job allocated to the workers but also security. Safety requirements and code provisions should be integrated during the planning stage itself, to enable the BIM to serve a meaningful design. Previous records of causes and intensity of accidents are incorporated to develop a healthy design and working strategy. Thus, pre-construction phase acts as an enabler to ensure working safety at the site.
During the construction phase, various activities can be digitally monitored and controlled as per the model simulated during the pre-construction phase. Any erring from the correct course of action can help raise an alarm. Communication is the key to the success of safety plans. BIM can help model messages and progress of the ongoing construction into a live demonstration virtually. This, in turn, can be used to inform the workers about what they ought and what they are ought not to do. Virtual amalgamation with real-time progress serves the intended purposes proficiently.
Post completion records of mishaps if any and efficiencies in safe implementation of the project or new discoveries can be documented to implement the necessities in similar projects in the future.
It is highly recommended that the Indian government should help facilitate the Indian AECO industry to overcome obstacles in the path of BIM technology, processes and protocols adoption. AECO industry should also aim at incorporating BIM, not just for time and cost saving but also to ensure safety at the site.
I Would Like To Express My Sincere Thanks To Amarnath CB For Constantly Motivating And Guiding Me In This Endeavor. The Confidence He Showed In My Writing Has Certainly Made Me Transcend Beyond My Existing Limits.
CFOI. (2015). Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) - Current and Revised Data. [Online] Available at https://www.bls.gov/iif/oshcfoi1.htm#2015 [Accessed 15 May 2017].
Hosseini, M.R., Maghrebi, M., Rameezdeen, R. and Waller, S.T., 2015, January. Statistically Reviewing Construction Accidents within South Australia during 2002-2013. In ISARC. Proceedings of the International Symposium on Automation and Robotics in Construction (Vol. 32, p. 1). Vilnius Gediminas Technical University, Department of Construction Economics & Property.
Leigh, D., 2016. Statistics on fatal injuries in the workplace in Great Britain in 2016.
Nadhim, E.A., Hon, C., Xia, B., Stewart, I. and Fang, D., 2016. Falls from height in the construction industry: a critical review of the scientific literature. International journal of environmental research and public health, 13(7), p.638.
National BIM Survey Report, 2017.
Sawhney A., 2014, “State of BIM adoption and outlook in India”, RICS school of built environment, Amity University.
About the Author
Nilay Singhal is Pursuing final year MBA in Construction Project Management at Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, Amity University, Noida, India.