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Digital tools can aid building safety

Digital tools should be embraced by designers to create construction projects that are safe to build, according to recent research

Posted by Dave Higgitt | January 30, 2014 | Technology

A study commissioned by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has reinforced the issue that safety needs to be designed into a construction project from the off and not considered as an afterthought, and digital design tools can have an impact in achieving this.

Jane White, research and information services manager at IOSH, said: “Construction, as we all know, is one of our more dangerous industries. Therefore, with safety as a top consideration in the design phase, the number and severity of accidents that take place could be substantially reduced.

“The research highlights the opportunities and challenges of seeing safety issues earlier in the process using digital design models. If safety was a top consideration for everyone at this early stage, then we could potentially see positive change in health and safety within construction.”

Dr Wei Zhou and Professor Jennifer Whyte, from University of Reading, and Associate Professor Rafael Sacks, from Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, brought together designers, builders, industry partners and construction management graduates. It allowed them to look at how builders and designers can interact effectively, with the aid of a virtual reality tool, to design safe construction processes.

Professor Jennifer Whyte, said: “Employers need to consider their use of digital building information models (BIM) and the impact they can have on safety practices on a building site.

“More needs to be understood about how digital tools such as BIM can be developed to foster mindful practices, and active decision making about safety issues.“

The IOSH-commissioned research highlights important issues around the use of digital building design models, and their potential impacts on safety, at a time when BIM is beginning to take off in the industry.

Jane White added: “The study also highlights the role digital models of design may play in the communication of construction design management (CDM) safety knowledge to designers. And with amendments to CDM regulations likely in 2014, things could be set to change, so knowledge is key.”

For more information on the research visit


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