How technology is improving project safety

It may not be something the average person thinks about on a daily basis, but technology plays an important role in making our lives safer. For instance, Volvo – the Swedish-based company and leader in automotive safety – recently stated that its goal for 2020 is “that no one is killed or injured in a Volvo.” This may seem like a lofty goal, but the development of crash avoidance and predictive technologies – along with other innovative safety features – make this a realistic target. Skanska believes that technology is critical to eliminating deaths and injuries on construction projects too.

One technology that we see as key to achieving our Injury-Free Environment® goal is building information modeling. Multi-dimensional BIM models clearly convey what is to be built: this improves design and construction efficiency, but more importantly BIM helps enable safer construction processes and provide for safer operation and maintenance of buildings and infrastructure. These latter two aspects are part of a far-reaching approach called “Safety by Design,” which focuses on considering safety impacts when making design selections.

Identifying trip hazards virtually

Building information models can help identify safety risks during design, so they can be eliminated instead of just mitigated. Here, a trip hazard has been identified virtually.

“Safety should be considered from the beginning of design – safety 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,” said David Korman, environment, health and safety director.

Added Albert Zulps, virtual design and construction regional director: “We can help plan for a safer project even before we break ground.”

The benefits of focusing on safety in design can be tremendous, as at that early project phase risks can be eliminated, instead of having to be mitigated. For instance, designing an exterior facade that can be fully installed from inside the building – rather than via exterior scaffolding or aerial lifts – reduces the potential for an accident. Likewise, making the choice early on that if a valve must be located high in the ceiling, that it’s provided with a chain wheel to allow operation from the ground – rather than requiring a facilities professional to reach it while high on a ladder – also reduces accident risk. BIM is an important part of testing such design options with safety in mind.

Such virtual models continue to deliver benefits into construction. For instance, a model can help ensure that a structural frame is properly braced all throughout the erection process. And by using a 4-D animation of construction sequencing, the location of cranes can be optimized to minimize overhead risk and conflicts with such hazards as overhead high tension wires. Additional ways BIM can enhance construction safety include creating virtual safety tours; enhanced site planning for egress, emergency routing and first aid; project-wide safety planning; pre-task planning; and investigating accidents when they do happen.

Other types of project technologies are also evolving rapidly. Before too long, safety will be improved by the wide use of everything from augmented reality to wearable technology. For example, safety information and hazard notification may be overlaid on safety goggles in real time, along with 3-D model information and analytics. With this, a worker walking through a space will quickly know key aspects of the surroundings, both now and in the future. Also, as wearable technologies become more prevalent, GPS location devices may link to 3-D site models to alert both the worker and the site safety team of potential dangers, and to track activity for continual optimization of construction site safety.

In June, Dave and Albert will present at the American Society of Safety Engineers’ Safety 2015 conference in Dallas on “Virtual Design and Construction for Safer Construction Projects.” Their presentation will overview how models and data can be used to enhance safety on construction projects and during operations. They will highlight examples from Skanska projects, and discuss what is on the horizon to improve construction safety using current and future technology.

We hope to see you there!

Skanska USA

Skanska USA

Skanska USA is one of the largest, most financially sound construction and development companies in the U.S., serving a broad range of clients in the public and private sectors, including those in transportation, power, industrial, water/wastewater, healthcare, life science, education, sports & entertainment, data centers, government, aviation and commercial industries.

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