Architecture, Engineering, Construction and Operation (AECO) is a labor-intensive industry. Compared to manufacturing sector AECO industry is yet to witness the wonders of automation at site. Construction of any built environment facility is largely dependent upon human resource at 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 Modeling (BIM) provides huge respite from complexities arising out of management and technology. Now a days BIM is gradually becoming indispensable for carrying out any infrastructural development. Organizations across the globe are gradually incorporating BIM technology, processes and protocols in their projects (see figure 1).
Figure 1. Global BIM Adoption (Sawhney 2014)
BIM technology, processes and protocols is now gaining popularity all around the world as it is instrumental in providing a 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 site, BIM has the potential to be a blessing for workers deployed directly at the construction site. We all are aware of 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 site suggests 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 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 Indian construction market. Because of the growing seriousness with regards to 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 the 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 with the construction activities. Not involving aspects related to health & safety at site during designing stage itself jeopardizes safety of workforce.
As we had discussed about BIM technology, processes and protocols integration with the AECO projects and for the accidental vulnerability at 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 site?” is the main objective being focused upon these days.
Building Information Modeling 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 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 planning stage itself, to enable Building Information Modeling 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 site.
During the construction phase, various activities can be digitally monitored and controlled as per the model simulated during pre-construction phase. Any erring from the correct course of action can help raise an alarm. Communication is the key to success of safety plans. Building Information Modeling 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 project or new discoveries can be documented to implement the necessities in similar projects in future.
It is highly recommended that Indian government should help facilitate the Indian AECO industry to overcome obstacles in the path of Building Information Modeling technology, processes and protocols adoption. AECO industry should also aim at incorporating Building Information Modeling not just for time and cost saving but also to ensure safety at site.
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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 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.