BIM and Health & Safety

Steve Ash
Building Information Modelling (BIM) is quickly becoming more established in the UK and we are beginning to hear less about ‘Why should we use BIM’ and more about ‘What else can BIM do for the industry’.

I will be taking a look at an important element of BIM that is still in its early stages of development – the integration of health & safety and BIM. BIM, health & safety, and the Construction Design Management (CDM) Regulations 2007 have not yet been collectively integrated into current projects. Whilst accepting that BIM is a great opportunity to progress the design and delivery of construction in the United Kingdom, we also need to accept and embrace the potential for BIM to deliver much more in terms of planning, CDM compliance and health and safety delivery.

We are also now beginning to see some signs of statutory change.

In the UK, we are currently working with the University of the West of England as CDM co-ordinators forming part of a multi-disciplinary design team. Our CDM role on the project forms an integral and proactive part of the overall BIM strategy, which I believe will show significant and tangible benefits such as:-

  • Cost savings in design and use

  • Greater clarity

  • Identify risks earlier in the project process

  • Risk and hazard removal in design, ensuring clients do not have to manage the residual risks or hazards remaining in the project following construction

  • Reduces human error

  • Issues/clashes resolved before project is live on site

  • Principal contractors having an informed understanding of the project and associated interfaces. Allowing for clear and defined management of the construction project

We are also now beginning to see some signs of statutory change. The government has recently commissioned a working group to integrate regulations into BIM to simplify compliance and enable Building Regulations and planning applications to be made using BIM.

The initiative, called BIM4Regs, aims to incorporate building regulations, planning, and health & safety requirements into the standard BIM model. This has been commissioned by the BIM Task Group, part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and is being executed by a cross section of government and industry organisations including the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Health & Safety Executive, BRE, software vendors and industry representatives. The initiative will embed regulatory information within BIM software, making it easy to check that the design complies with legislation.

The industry has an opportunity to maximise the potential of BIM by enhancing the synergy between design and health & safety and I anticipate a growing awareness and interest in this new direction.

I have recently been delivering talks on BIM and health & safety, as part of a series of Faithful+Gould BIM seminars to industry stakeholders. It is encouraging to see that we have seen an interested and enthusiastic response to these, with audiences largely accepting the benefits of incorporating health & safety into BIM models, but showing uncertainty of the next step in the development process.

The industry has an opportunity to maximise the potential of BIM by enhancing the synergy between design and health & safety and I anticipate a growing awareness and interest in this new direction. This supports the principle of incorporating health & safety into design from the earliest stage – rather than treating it as an additional role.