Safety in construction: Prevention through design

Building information modeling (BIM)-assisted prevention through design is the concept of mitigating occupational hazards by designing them out and improving worker safety overall.


Building information modeling (BIM)-assisted prevention through design is the concept of mitigating occupational hazards by designing them out and improving worker safety overall. Courtesy: SouthlandSouthland has always been a safety leader in the construction industry, especially when it comes to the practice of a concept called prevention through design. For many years, we have embraced Lean concepts and continually improved upon maximizing the use of prefabrication. We utilize our shops to fabricate material in a controlled environment to reduce the amount of risk and exposure to the employees in the field while increasing overall production.

Recently, Southland's Southwest Division launched a new program that utilizes building information modeling (BIM) to eliminate risks before it occurs on the construction site. This technology is allowing us to take prevention through design to the next level.

BIM-assisted prevention through design is the concept of mitigating occupational hazards by designing them out. This process effectively and economically addresses hazards and risks. Using BIM gives safety professionals the chance to walk the job virtually and identify key risks and opportunities associated with a project before construction begins.

Fall protection is a key BIM-assisted opportunity. The model is used to identify leading edges, access and egress points, openings and skylights, elevator and mechanical shafts, loading and landing zones, and other related hazards. After these fall hazards are identified, we design in cast-in-place fall protection anchor points. Safety professionals are able to access the model and insert anchor points that will translate into Trimble GPS Points in the field.

Trimble equipment uses GPS technology to map out installation points during the decking phase. The cast-in-place anchor points are then installed before the concrete is poured. This eliminates the risk and exposure of the employee needing to drill in overhead safety anchor points after the concrete is poured. BIM can also be used to determine excavation protection systems.

Safety professionals can access the model and take measurements of the excavation depth and dimensions. They also can use the technology to identify confined spaces in the project and plan for accessing these areas early on. Utilizing prevention through design to its full capabilities will play a large role in reducing the injury rate and making sure a company's greatest resource returns home to their families each day.

Kevin Dunn, safety coordinator, Southland Industries. This article originally appeared on Southland's blog, In the Room.

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