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Improving Construction Site Safety with the use of Building Information Modelling

Info: 5644 words (23 pages) Example Dissertation Proposal
Published: 21st Dec 2021

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Tagged: Construction

Literature Review


According to the estimations of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), every year a minimum 60,000 people are killed on construction sites which roughly equals to one death every 10 minutes.

For years in Ireland, the construction industry federation (CIF) state that organisations in the industry have been investing money as well as time into improving site safety to ensure workers within the company can safely work on construction projects. Hardin and Mccool (2015) state that there is a huge margin for improving construction site safety with technology, and the industry must not ignore this potential.

"Despite technological advancements of information and knowledge management in the building and construction industry, a link between safety management and information models is still missing." (Teizer et al, 2014)

The use of BIM is growing across the construction industry and has brought many benefits mainly, building design and construction planning but Teizer, Zhang Lee, Venugopal & Eastman (2012) suggests it also has the potential for improving site safety throughout a buildings lifecycle. McPartland (2017) states that as the construction industry embraces its own digital revolution, new opportunities exist to spot and foresee risks and hazards earlier and more effectively mitigate them. Sebastian (2010) states that BIM will give a clear visualisation of a project to all parties and allows the designer to make changes to any design issues early because of BIM's ability to show the viewer all of the construction tasks in 3D. Through BIM utilisation, a scenario can be simulated in the virtual world before starting construction, allowing workers to identify any hazards that may occur, reducing risks being taken on-site.

BIM Interpretation

Azhar, S., & Khalfan, M. (2009) state that BIM is digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility creating a shared knowledge resource for information about it forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life cycle, from earliest conception to demolition.

Doan et al (2019) describes BIM as an intelligent 3D model-based process that gives professionals in the construction industry the insight and tools to more efficient planning, design, operate, and management of construction projects.

According to (Sampaio & Simões, 2014), "BIM provides insight into a projects design constructability which improves the efficiency during the construction phase along with providing a greater understanding of the buildings future operation and maintenance works".

Traditional approach to site safety

The Health and safety authority (HAS, 2016) state that construction companies are legally obliged to prepare a safety statement and carry out risk assessments for their business prior to construction. The HSA add that there is an online tool called "BeSMART.IE which lets users generate their own risk assessments and safety statements which can be printed, downloaded and implemented. In order for companies to utilise the tool successfully, they must: (HSA, 2018)

  • Register and select their business type
  • Work through a series of questions about the hazards on site
  • Walk around the site, consult with workers on site and make sure no hazards have been missed
  • When finished - download, edit and print the safety statement

The HSA states that programs such as a safe pass program, site induction, toolbox talk etc. are carried out so that workers are educated and made aware of the possible risks that may exist enabling the workers to identify and reduce the risks themselves.

Ganah & John (2015) adds that traditionally, safety issues are also communicated through 2D drawings face-to-face meetings, ghant charts and written statements. There are a number of areas where the traditional management system may fall suggests Teizer et al (2012). The person that is responsible for the development of the safety management systems can create these programs without the individual actually fully understanding all that is ongoing in the work place. It can be assumed that workers in the workplace will always follow rules and that the related programs are followed but unfortunately this is not always the case. At times, a workplace can be suddenly exposed to a work environment or a task that it has not experience before. In this new work environment, the risks and hazards that are found could be alien to the contractor and workers and mitigation process could be hard to develop.

BIMs approach to construction site safety

BIM when implemented in a construction project will allow users to visualise exactly where there could be any potential hazards or risks in a construction project from an early stage. Sulankiv, Kahkonen, Makela & Kiviniemi (2014) state that BIM-based 3D site layout plans have proven to be a versatile and useful visualisation source, and have become a clear application area for BIM in the construction industry. Cousins (2016) adds that risks can be recorded in the 3D model with a visual identifier, such as an exclamation mark, which will remain in place regardless of whether the model is viewed as a plan, section, or elevation.

Teizer et al (2012) states that unsafe work conditions are where workers on site can be exposed to hazardous space, which could potentially turn into a fall hazard. In the construction industry, falls are the most frequently occurring types of accidents resulting in fatalities (Huang and Hinze, 2003).

Teizer et al (2012) suggests that BIM can detect these fall hazards in virtual 3D at planning and design stage and can act proactively to install a protective control measure to mitigate the hazard. A typical example of protective systems that BIM would add are elements such as guardrail systems.

"The intention is to automatically identify these dynamic conditions, as the building is constructed, identifying their location in a virtual 3D space, and interactively or automatically providing solutions and visualization of protective systems to mitigate identified hazards" (Teizer et al, 2012).

Teizer et al (2012) created a test model using BIM, which showed a four-story construction project that was in progress. The model included various types of openings in the floor slabs and walls (each a different size and shape) which all represented a fall hazard. The model only had walls erected on the first two floors. The below figures show a BIM model without a protective system in place and the model with the protective system in place. This demonstrates the proactive control measures BIM models can put in place.

Model without protective system and with a protective system (Teizer et al, 2012).

Examples of protective equipment for staircases, slab edges, and slab openings with different shapes/dimensions (Teizer et al, 2012).

Examples of exterior wall openings and guardrail protection system in place (Teizer et al, 2012).

Model-driven prefabrication and off-site fabrication

"Prefabrication is a manufacturing process, generally taking place at a specialised facility, with which various materials are joined to form a component part of the final installation" (Riley, 2010).

At a basic level, BIM has increased accurate, better quality documents, such as 3D models and CAD drawings, which has increased the ability for prefabrication of components which were previously constructed on site (Stewart Irishconstruction.com). Riley, Okudan & Chen (2010) states that improved site safety is found to be a huge advantage of prefabricated components due to a clean and safer working environments when compared to on-site construction methods.

"Slips, trips, falls, soft tissue injuries, and other issues can be reduced if not eliminated because the work is being done under controlled conditions and using automation unavailable on a construction site." (Team, 2016)

Samarasinghe, Mendis, Ngo & Fernando (2015) states that with all disciplines in a construction site being cramped into one area along with them being installed simultaneously by a number of workers, there is a higher possibility of risk involvement on site. Mordue (2017) also states that the opportunity to do more prefabrication of materials off-site in a safe and controlled environment reduces the chances of hazards occurring on site.

Traditional and BIM safety techniques compared

Gledson & Greenwood (2014) believe that the planning process is comprised of the following elements: "gathering information (including establishing key dates and constraints); identifying key activities and events; assessing of durations; establishing logic and sequence; and presenting the plan in a suitable medium".

Teizer et al (2012) states that the construction industry is widely recognised for its complex nature, which is the reason why safety planning is more challenging than in other industries. "The most severe consequence from bad safety planning and execution is loss of life" (Teizer et al, 2012). Teizer et al (2014) notes that typically, planning for site safety involves the process of identifying all potential hazards and choosing an appropriate control measure for the identified hazard.

With traditional safety planning, Teizer et al (2014) believes that the link between the work to be executed and the planning is often weak. Hadikusumo & Rowlinson (2002) states that the traditional approach for safety planning is to work off 2D drawings, paper based safety forms or observe issues in the workplace to determine methods of hazard prevention.

"This approach obviously causes difficulties in translating information into a mental picture of the project for planning purposes." (Hadikusumo & Rowlinson, 2002)

Typically, at the planning and design stages, approaches used to design for safety can fall short and face barriers due to the fact that they are greatly designer controlled (Mordue, 2017). According to (Getuli, Ventura, Capone & Ciribini, 2017) these approaches are manual and based on the experience of the individual or individuals, meaning, the results retained can be prone to errors caused by subjective judgement of the person making the decision.

(Kim, Cho & Zhang, 2016) state that BIM adds the time factor of the construction schedule to the 3D model. BIM allows each activity on a gantt chart to be directly linked to a specific BIM model ("Building Information Modelling Part 4", 2020). The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) adds that linking the digital model to a schedule and adding the time dimension allows the construction sequence to be rehearsed digitally and potential hazards identified. This is significantly different to the traditional safety planning approach as it is reliant on site observations, gut-feelings and the knowledge of the safety planner (Azhar, 2017). Barriers to 4D BIM implementation.

Barriers to 4D BIM implementation

Kassem, Brogden & Dawood (2012) carried out a questionnaire which was sent out to a number of contractors and consultants in the UK construction industry identifying the greatest barriers for implementing BIM. The results showed that the top three barriers were (1) lack of benefit for parties involved, (2) lack of experience within the workforce, and (3) lack of universal use within projects.

Farrel, Ahmed, & Enam (2014) carried out a survey identifying the barriers for implementing BIM according to construction companies in the Middle East. The results of the survey showed that the availability of skilled professionals was the greatest barrier followed by the absence of contractual requirement for BIM implementation and disruption to current process / resistant to change. These results show how important it can be for the client to make BIM a requirement for the contractors competing for a project.

Construction IT alliance (CITA) carried out a survey in Ireland in October 2015 to determine the main barriers to implementing BIM. The survey was sent out to 100 companies and had a 69% response. Hore (2015) notes that the 3 main barriers discovered were cost, lack of demand and lack of expertise.

Rationale for research

The Author's received inspiration for this topic came from an experience on a construction site last year. I had been on site carrying out a valuation when worker on the same site had tripped and fallen from the edge of a stairwell and fractured his leg. It was later discovered that when planning for safety at the pre-construction stage, the fall hazard associated with the stairwell had not been identified on the 2D drawings, as the stairwell was not clearly visible meaning there was no protective measures in place on site. This incident contributed to the idea for choosing this research proposal topic as the author believed a BIM approach at the safety planning stage would have easily identified the stairwell as a 3D virtual environment gives a much clearer representation on all aspects of a project.

From this the author briefly carried out some research and came across an article that linked BIM and health and safety together. The title of the article was "BIM spells safety on site" and the author was Stephen Cousins. It demonstrated how BIM has the ability to allow designers to identify hazards at a pre-construction stage and mitigate them in advance of construction. Architect Stefan Mordue states in the article that with BIM, "Designers should be producing safety critical information during the modelling phase, in BIM, so that people upstream can benefit from it" (Cousins, 2016).

Research Question

"Utilisation of BIM at the planning stage of projects will improve construction site safety in Ireland"

Research Aim

To investigate if BIM improves construction site safety at the design and planning stages in the construction industry in Ireland.

Research Objectives

  • To review the traditional approach to construction site safety.
  • To analyse the approach to construction site safety using BIM.
  • To compare BIM's construction site safety approach to the traditional construction site safety approach.
  • To determine the barriers of implementing BIM for construction site safety.
  • To determine whether BIM improves construction site safety in the Irish construction industry.

Overall Design and Methods

The overall design for this research intends to outline a structure and shape for this research study. Quantitative research can be defined as "an inquiry into a social or human problem, based on testing a hypothesis or a theory composed of variables, measured with numbers and analysed with statistical procedures, in order to determine whether the hypothesis or theory holds true" (Naomum, 2013).

Quantitative research methods are the appropriate choice when the aim is to discover facts about a concept or to collect factual evidence and study the relationship between these facts in order to test a particular hypothesis (Naomum, 2013). They are far more structured than qualitative research methods.

The quantitative research method used will aim to produce data figures which will allow the author to express the data received into numbers therefore tests involving statistics can be applied when making a statement on this data. By analysing these statistics, vital facts from the data received such as trends in the industry, variations in opinions from different professions and demographics can be obtained which I believe is extremely important and relevant for this research topic.

Proposed Sample

This target population that this research will consist of is specifically focused on construction industry companies in Ireland. Individuals that work in the construction industry that have roles which are safety related or work at the planning stage of a project will be the sample that are considered.

The sampling frame for this research study will be health and safety officers, health and safety advisors, construction planners, BIM experts and BIM engineers. The rationale for this sampling frame is that the professions listed experience safety procedures at the planning stage on all construction projects.

The aim for the sample will be 100 participants. Safety at the planning stage is critical on all projects and the utilisation of BIM is growing each year thus the large sample size selected. Stratified cluster sampling will be used to select the relevant professionals. Questionnaires and a cover letter will be emailed to the selected individuals.

Data Collection

A questionnaire consisting of relevant well written questions will be used to collect the required research data. Questionnaires from previous studies similar to this research will be studied to assist in compiling relevant questions as well as information obtained from literature. The questions will be structured in a way that they can be linked back to the research question, aims and objectives of the study. The questions will be a mixture of precoded and open ended questions that aim to cover the following:

  • Experience using BIM,
  • Knowledge and experience on the planning stages of a project using BIM
  • Knowledge and experience on the planning stages of a project using traditional procedures,
  • Barriers to BIM implementation,
  • Advantages and disadvantages on BIM utilisation for safety,
  • Advantages and disadvantages on traditional procedures for safety planning.

The rationale for choosing this type of data collection is because this method allows the collation of a large amount of data on a study which is vital for this specific research topic as it is a huge talking point in today's industry with many different opinions. Another reason is that once this data has been obtained it can be compared and contrasted against similar studies in the past which is important for improving comparability.

Plan for Data Analysis

The software to be used for the data analysis and entry will be SPSS software. My first experience using this software was in my Research Methods tutorials in semester one. I was impressed with how easy the software can be to all skill users once educated on the processes involved. SPSS software will allow me to identify any trends that may occur through questionnaires data and can assist in drawing a conclusion of the results. An additional benefit oi discovered when using this software for my data analysis is that a clear quality graphic display can be produced to represent the questionnaire results.

Ethical Considerations

It will be priority that ethical considerations are utilised prior to any data collection or the issuing of questionnaires. All participants in the survey will be ensured that the questionnaires can be anonymously filled out if sought. The email sent out to the participants with the questionnaire attached will again outline that all information given is confidential (See attached questionnaire at (Appendix A).

An information consent form will be separately issued to each participant. This will give the participant an understanding on the purpose of the research and inform them that by filling out the questionnaire they will take part in the research. This form will also state that it is not mandatory to respond or fill out the questionnaires as this is voluntary on the participant's behalf. The participant will be instructed before participating in the research that they can choose to withdraw from the procedure at any point (See attached invitation email at (Appendix B).




Weeks (Nov 2020 - August 2021)











Select topic of interest

Develop research questions

Search and retrieve articles

Select articles and start literature review

Chart data and analyse

Draft Report prepare literature review presentation

Consult with informants and issue questionnaires

Collate results and develop reccommendations

Final report and final presentaion


Azhar, S. (2017). Role of Visualization Technologies in Safety Planning and Management at Construction Jobsites. Procedia Engineering, 171, 215-226. doi: 10.1016/j.proeng.2017.01.329

Azhar, S., & Khalfan, M. (2009), Building Information Modeling (BIM): Now and Beyond, Australasian Journal of Construction Economics and Building, 12(4), p1-26, doi: https://doi.org/10.5130/AJCEB.v12i4.3032

BUILDING INFORMATION MODELLING Part 4. (2020). Retrieved 29 December 2019, from https://irishconstruction.com/building-information-modelling-4/

Chen, Y., Okudan, G., & Riley, D. (2010). Sustainable performance criteria for construction method selection in concrete buildings. Automation In Construction, 19(2), 235-244. doi:10.1016/j.autcon.2009.10.004

Cousins, S. (2016) BIM spells safety on site. Health and Safety at Work, Retrieved 30 December 2019, from http:// www.healthandsafetyatwork.com

Dengenis, S. (2014) 4D BIM- setting new standards, 4D BIM for Construction, Retrieved 03 January 2020, from: http:// www.aisolutions.co.uk

Doan, D. T., Ghaffarianhoseini, A., Naismith, N., Zhang, T., Rehman, A. U., Tookey, J., &

Ghaffarianhoseini, A. (2019). What is BIM? A Need for A Unique BIM Definition. MATEC Web of Conferences, 266, p1-4 doi: 10.1051/matecconf/201926605005

Farrel, P., Ahmed, S.M., Enam, H. (2014), Barriers to bim/4D implementation in Qatar, Optimising Project Controls for Construction, University of Bolton, URL: file:///U:/BIM4DBarriers.pdf

Ganah, A., & John, G. A. (2015). Integrating Building Information Modeling and Health and Safety for Onsite Construction. Safety and Health at Work, 6(1), 39–45. doi: 10.1016/j.shaw.2014.10.002

Getuli, V., Ventura, S., Capone, P., & Ciribini, A. (2017). BIM-based Code Checking for Construction Health and Safety. Procedia Engineering, 196, 454-461. doi: 10.1016/j.proeng.2017.07.224

Gledson, B.J & Greenwood, d. (2016), Surveying the extent and use of 4D BIM in the UK, Journal of Information Technology in Construction, v.21, p.57-68, doi:www.itcon.org/2016/4

Hadikusumo, B., & Rowlinson, S. (2002). Integration of virtually real construction model and designfor-safety-process database. Automation In Construction, 11(5), 501-509. doi: 10.1016/s09265805(01)00061-9

Hore (2015). Building Ireland's BIM Capability, Retrieved 02 January 2020, from https://www.engineersireland.ie/getattachment/CPD-Training/CPD-Training/Past-Seminars/BIMTransforming-Irish-Workplaces/4-Alan-Hore.pdf.aspx

HSA (2016) A Guide to Risk Assessments and Safety Statements. Retrieved from http://www.hsa.ie/eng/Publications_and_Forms/Publications/Safety_and_Health_Management/A_ Guide_to_Risk_Assessments_and_Safety_Statements.html

Kassem, M., Brogden, T., & Dawood, N. (2012). BIM and 4D planning: a holistic study of the barriers and drivers to widespread adoption. Journal Of Construction Engineering And Project Management, 2(4), 1-10. doi: 10.6106/jcepm.2012.2.4.001

Kim, K., Cho, Y., & Zhang, S. (2016). Integrating work sequences and temporary structures into safety planning: Automated scaffolding-related safety hazard identification and prevention in BIM. Automation In Construction, 70, 128-142. doi: 10.1016/j.autcon.2016.06.012

McPartland, R. (2017, November 17). What is PAS 1192-6?. Retrieved 10 January 2020, from https://www.thenbs.com

Mordue (2017), BIM for Health and Safety in Construction. Retrieved 7 January 2020, from https://www.autodesk.com/autodesk-university/article/BIM-Health-and-Safety-Construction-2017

Naomum, S., 2013. Dissertation Research and Writing for Construction Students. Butterworth Heinemann ed. s.l.:Third Edition. Retrieved 12 January 2020, from https://www.academia.edu/12713521/Dissertation_Research_and_Writing_for_Construction_Stude nts_Second_edition

Samarasinghe, T., Mendis, P., Ngo, T & Fernando, W.J.B.S (2015) IM Software Framework for Prefabricated Construction: Case Study Demonstrating BIM Implementation on a Modular House, University of Melbourne, Australia

Sampaio, A., & Simões, D. (2014). Maintenance of Buildings Using BIM Methodology. The Open Construction and Building Technology Journal, 8(1), p337–342. doi: 10.2174/1874836801408010337

Sebastian, R. (2010), Changing roles of the clients, architects and contractors through BIM, TNO Built Environment and Geosciences, 18(2), P176-187, doi: 10.1108/09699981111111148

Stewart, P., A building information modelling: an overview of the process from an irish construction project management perspective, Retrieved from: https://http://www.bimireland.ie [viewed date: 2rd January, 2020]

Sulankiv, K., Kahkonen, K., Makela, T. & Kiviniemi, M. (2014, May 22), 4D-BIM for Construction Safety Planning, Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228640694_4DBIM_for_Construction_Safety_Planning

Team, W. (2016). BIM for Construction Site Safety: How to Identify and Prevent Hazards. Retrieved 10 January 2020, from https://www.whirlwindsteel.com/blog/BIM-for-Construction-Site-SafetyHow-to-Identify-and-Prevent-Hazards

Teizer, J., Zhang, S., Lee, J.K, Venugopal, M. & Eastman, C.M (2012), Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Safety: Automatic Safety Checking of Construction Models and Schedules, Automation in Construction, 29, p183-195, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.autcon.2012.05.006

Teizer, J., Zhang, S., Sulankivi, K., Kiviniemi, M., Romo, I. & Eastman, C.M (2014), BIM-based fall hazard identification and prevention in construction safety planning, Safety Science, p31-44, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.autcon.2012.05.006

Appendix A

Student Research Questionnaire

Please circle your answer or write it in where a line is provided. All information you give is confidential.

1. Profession BIM expert H&S officer Construction planner Other

2. How many years experience in your position _________________________

3. Please say how much you agree or disagree with the following statement (please tick)




Strongly Agree

Traditionally, preconstruction safety improvement techniques, such as designing for safety, can fall short as they are often carried out using 2D static drawings

4. Please say how much you agree or disagree with the following statement (please tick)




Strongly Agree

At a basic level, BIM has increased accurate, better quality documents, such as 3D models and CAD drawings, which has increased the ability for prefabrication of components resulting in a safer outcome on site

5. Please say how much you agree or disagree with the following statement (please tick)




Strongly Agree

If there was more of a demand for BIM, as a requirement from the client at tender stage, would it be implemented more for safety purposes

6.Please say how much you agree or disagree with the following statement (please tick)




Strongly Agree

A lack of expertise for using 4D BIM for planning, is a barrier for implementing BIM for safety purposes at the planning phase in Ireland

7. Please say how much you agree or disagree with the following statement (please tick)




Strongly Agree

BIM can easily pick up on potential fall hazards in a 3D model and can act proactively to enable protective control measures

8. Please say how much you agree or disagree with the following statement (please tick)




Strongly Agree

The cost of BIM software is a major barrier to

BIM implementation in Ireland

9. Please say how much you agree or disagree with the following statement (please tick)




Strongly Agree

BIM models can be incorporated into risk assessments and site inductions to give workers a greater visualisation on site hazards

Appendix B

Invitation to Interview E-mail

Dear Sir/Madam,

My name is xx and I am a final year student in NUI Galway.

My area of concentration for my final year dissertation is related to Building

Information Modeling in the construction industry. The title of my dissertation is "Improving Construction Site Safety with the use of Building Information Modelling at the Planning Stage of a Project ".

The objectives to my dissertation are:

  • To review the traditional approach to construction site safety.
  • To analyse the approach to construction site safety using 4D BIM.
  • To compare BIM's construction site safety approach to the traditional construction site safety approach.
  • To determine the barriers of implementing BIM for construction site safety.
  • To determine whether BIM improves construction site safety in the Irish construction industry

As part of my dissertation, I must undertake research in the form of questionnaires with industry experts that can relate to my dissertation topic. I believe you experience and knowledge in the industry would greatly benefit my research studies. All information given is confidential

I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.

Kind Regards,

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