Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) and Building Information Modeling (BIM) may be used to plan and communicate project safety measures and to improve project safety in planning, during construction and through to facility operations. BIM entails creating a building virtually, in 3D. This allows for a clear understanding of the proposed building by all stakeholders, regardless of their ability to read drawings. The building is spatially correct and can therefore be used for to identify and mitigate safety hazards in the planning stage that would affect construction and operations of the building. This paper will review how VDC/BIM may be used throughout all phases of the project lifecycle to enhance safety.
Safety should be considered from the beginning of design: as it relates to occupants of the building and for those who operate and maintain the building, as well as safety for those who construct the building. "Safety by design" is a term used to describe how buildings may be designed to allow for safer construction and safer operation when the building is occupied. For example, a valve may be re-located by lowering it so that a ladder is not required for installation and operation, or a chain wheel may be designed to couple with the valve to avoid using a ladder during regular operations (see Exhibit 1 below).
Other hazards may be removed at the planning and design phase that may lead to unsafe conditions for occupants and maintenance staff. Exhibit 2 below is an example of an access ladder designed adjacent to the edge of the building, creating an unsafe fall condition. Moving this ladder away from the building extremity would have made for a safer condition, both for those on the ladder and anyone below from the hazards of something falling.