Safer construction with BIM and WHS risk management integration

Friday, 19 November, 2021 | Supplied by: Centre for Work Health and Safety

The NSW Government’s Centre for Work Health and Safety is researching ways to integrate work health and safety (WHS) risk management into Building Information Modelling (BIM), to enable workplace health and safety laws to be considered far earlier in the planning process. Centre Director Skye Buatava said the study had focused on identifying barriers and enablers to include WHS considerations, due to increased use of BIM to facilitate project design, planning and management. The research compared the use of BIM against accredited WHS Management Systems, which are the current standard for major construction projects. “There is a growing Australian interest in BIM, with some governments and construction industry leaders increasingly specifying its use for infrastructure projects. BIM aids decision-making processes throughout construction but can also be used for the ongoing management of buildings and infrastructure. The research established a new approach to support the adoption of BIM-enabled WHS management systems in the construction industry, with evidence-based practical guidelines developed with industry to enable the integration,” Buatava said.

Construction is among the most dangerous industries in which to work and many safety incidents, injuries and fatalities can be prevented through improved design, planning and communication. BIM is an enabling technology that can be used for the generation and management of digital design and construction information, from which WHS hazards and related risks can be identified and managed. BIM can also be used to support the elimination or mitigation of risks. WHS management requires controls to be in place over the entire asset lifecycle, including project planning, design, construction, end use, maintenance, decommission and demolition. As an enabler of data and information management, BIM provides the opportunity to improve health and safety through better analytics, modelling and simulation, with the underlying assumption that this will provide better insights, decisions and outcomes.

The Centre partnered with Torrens and Western Sydney Universities to better understand the use of BIM for WHS management, which included international cases studied from the UK and Singapore. Buatava noted that if companies apply WHS risk management by integrating it within BIM, it can lead to the selection of safer practices and techniques before a project begins. “The research that created these guidelines has the capability to put Australia on the cutting edge of safety practices in our infrastructure projects,” she said. Torrens University Australia Pro Vice Chancellor Research Professor Kerry London led the research and has been invited to be part of the committee charged with drafting the first Australian Standard for Building Information Modelling for WHS management.

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