How construction safety can be boosted with BIM
3D models in the design phase provide visualisations which can identify safety risks
The HSE’s BIM4 working group has drawn up new guidance for incorporating safety risk into digital models, with input from major clients and consultants. Steve Coppin explains.
Among the many touted benefits of BIM, one that has received less attention to date is the likely safety gain through better planning of the design and construction.
That should change with publication of a new guidance note for clients writing employer’s information requirements (EIRs) which implement BIM on a project.
The document has been drawn up by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) BIM4 group, whose members include National Grid, the Environment Agency, Network Rail, TfL, Arcadis and Arup. It is chaired by HSE inspector Gordon Crick.
Consideration of health and safety information requirements is critical from the outset of a project. The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 place responsibility for co-ordination of health and safety during the preconstruction phase with the principal designer, who is appointed by the client.
This key role also involves liaising with the principal contractor to help in the planning, managing, monitoring and co-ordination of the construction phase. One aim of this guidance is to help principal designers comply with their legal duties on projects under CDM 2015.
There is a great opportunity to use BIM to support improved health and safety practices and achieve compliance. This can be achieved through:
- 3D models in the design phase to provide visual pictures and animations;
- 4D animations which show construction over time;
- An integrated common data environment.
But often this is left too late in the process, meaning opportunities are lost. The new guidance provides clear details on how the EIR should be drafted and integrated with BIM. It outlines 10 key questions (see below) that should help clients define their key issues based on PAS 1192 section 6, which was published last year and deals with health and safety.
Key principles of the guidance include:
- Focus on the end result and what you want to achieve – make the EIR clear and effective;
- Incorporate the CDM health and safety file into the common data environment to ensure that pertinent health and safety information is retained effectively;
- Establish the common data environment early and clarify within the EIR how health and safety information will be stored and shared throughout the project lifecycle;
- Be clear on the data that should be recorded, shared and archived.
Remember that you could be breaking the law by not identifying safety risks on a project – using BIM methodology can help ensure you are compliant.
Steve Coppin is associate technical director at Arcadis and a member of the HSE BIM4 Working Group
10 essential questions clients should ask when preparing employer’s information requirements (EIR)
1. What early project decisions will have health and safety implications for the operation and end use
of the asset?
2. Can the common data environment enable health and safety information to be captured, stored and retrieved as needed at every stage of the project lifecycle and affect parties beyond the project?
3. Has relevant and good quality health and safety preconstruction information been provided to the
4. Have you specified reviews at key stages to enable collaborative working and feedback on risk management?
5. What are the design risk objectives?
6. Has a design plan been requested, inclusive of a collaborative design risk management plan?
7. Has it been requested that models produced by the different design disciplines are capable of effective federation and can that health and safety information be conserved for re-use?
8. What are the arrangements that will be put in place at the outset to ensure testing and commissioning is carried out effectively?
9. What arrangements will be put in place at the outset to ensure that information in a health and safety file is made available to the end user?
10. How will the client be able to ensure that lessons are learnt from this project experience, in relation to health and safety?