Benefits of BIM and Prevention Through Design: Improved Construction Site Safety | Construction Podcast

Listen to “A Podcast That Builds” host Ben Johnson and Dodge’s Donna Laquidara-Carr discuss the benefits of BIM in the construction industry, including how it can improve construction site safety. Also learn how prevention through design could transform the industry’s approach to construction site safety. Below is a transcript of this construction podcast.

   Ben Johnson:    

Hello and welcome to "A Podcast That Builds", construction industry experts keeping you in the know with news, trends and analysis that will shape the future of building. I'm your host Ben Johnson, and we're happy once again to have Donna Laquidara-Carr with us today.

 

Donna Laquidara-Carr

Thank you, Ben. I'm fairly pleased to be here today.

 

Ben Johnson:

And today we are discussing the new safety SmartMarket Report. This is the third construction site safety study done by Dodge, and after three, what kind of trends have we seen?

 

Donna Laquidara-Carr

Well, one thing I do want to say before I dive into the trends that are, we really could not do any of these reports without the support of our premier partners. And in this case, this was the center for construction research and training, also known as CPWR and United Rentals. And I really just wanted to acknowledge them right off the bat, especially because they've been involved in all three studies. So they've been deeply involved in, in helping us track these trends. So the first trend that we see is the one question we've asked about an all three studies is about the benefits that people get from their safety investments. And we find that consistently across all three studies, contractors recognize that improving safety has a positive rather than a negative impact on cost and schedule. You know, I think the old cliché, the old paradigm was that, you know, construction site safety, we put those two things at risk, but really, we can see the industries evolved, really recognizes that, know that making safety investments has a positive impact on those two factors.

Another area that we see some consistency and especially when it comes to benefits, are the positive impacts on quality and on their standing in the industry and under ability to do new work to contract new work. All three of those, we really see that at least 60% of the of the contractors are reporting that they're achieving these benefits from their safety investments. Interestingly, between 2012 and 2015 we also saw a real shift in the findings. In 2012 worker involvement was moderately important at best, but suddenly in 2015 we saw a major shift for that to suddenly become one of the top factors. And one of the clearest examples of that is that a job site worker involvement ranked first for the first time in 2015 among the top aspects of a world class safety program. In the current study. We see that continue, we see that emphasis on the job site worker continue and the recognition of the fundamental role that bringing your workers in plays in terms of your construction site safety efforts.

Finally, there's a few other things when comes to communication. We also saw shift between 2012 and 2015 that sustained in the current study and that is that is around toolbox talks in 2012 toolbox talks and training were ranked pretty equally in terms of ways to communicate safety messages to the field. Now toolbox talks ranked significantly higher than then training in terms of its effectiveness in, in getting those safety messages out and across all three studies we've certainly seen again and again and strikingly that large companies are making more investments, doing more safety practices and ultimately reaping more benefits from their safety investments than smaller companies. So that's still a real challenge that the industry has to face.

 

Ben Johnson:    

So, this new study also featured new data on prevention through design. So, what, what exactly is PTD?

 

Donna Laquidara-Carr

So, we did publish a formal NIOSH definition and I probably should start with that. Prevention through design (PTD) involves all efforts to anticipate and design out hazards to workers and facilities, work methods and operations processes, equipment, tools, products, materials, new technologies, and the Organization of work. Okay. Obviously that's a little bit of a formal definition. It was a little easier when you took the survey and you actually read it than to hit to hear it said to you. So to quickly summarize what prevention through design really is, it's just keeping the idea of safety and developing formal processes for reviewing the safety of the building during the design process, preferably during the schematic process. There were several different things we looked at, but fundamentally it's just making sure that as you're designing a project, you're considering the safety of the construction workers that are going to have to build it and the safety of those who are going to have to operate the building moving forward.

 

Ben Johnson:    

And that's, that's great. Why, why did you specifically decide to study prevention through design in this area report?

 

Donna Laquidara-Carr

Well, there really is a lot of global evidence that PTD has an amazing effect. You know, in the U S it's still very much an emerging trend at our findings. Definitely supported the idea that in the u s this concept is still emerging in that there's not wide recognition of it across the industry, but globally there's been a lot of attention to it in the construction industry and studies that have been conducted link between 22% and 63% of workplace fatalities to design related factors. Now let's just pause for a second and say that only the low end is correct and that some of the studies got a little bit exaggerated. If we could prevent 22% of workplace fatalities just by being more conscious of safety during design and doing a few formal processes around it, think of the profound impact that has on people's lives, people's families, company's success. So I, you know, it really is compelling and if it's 63%, of course that's astounding. There's another more anecdotal thing is in the UK they have actually had PTD mandatory since 1994 and interestingly enough, now, again, this is a correlation and not causation, but interestingly enough, right now they're fatality rate is one fifth that of the u s so certainly there is a lot of compelling evidence out there that the U.S. needs to start looking at prevention through design and taking it very seriously.

 

Ben Johnson:    

So, taking it back to the U.S. What did you find out specifically about prevention through design now in the United States?

 

Donna Laquidara-Carr

Well, one of the things that was different about our PTD research from the other safety studies we've done is that in addition to interviewing contractors, we also interviewed architects because obviously it's very important to find out what architects understand about PTD. We did find out when we presented them with that definition that I gave you guys earlier from NIOSH. We did find out that only 19% of the architects were familiar with PTD as described in that definition. And the trade contractors weren't that much better. Only about a third 34% of them were familiar with it. It was only the general contractors who seem to have broader familiarity and even they were only around half. So but it's interestingly, we also asked, okay, are you familiar with this? And then we asked them, well, are you actually doing it based on this definition? And a higher percentage 56% of the architects, 66% of the trades and 67% of the GC's believe that they're practicing PTD based on that definition.

But that was just generally, okay, here's a definition. Are you doing this? We really wanted to look at some of the specific practices associated with PTD. So we asked both the architects and the contractors if they're doing them. And interestingly when it comes to the architects, 83% said that they're considering prefabrication, which is an important part of PTD. Of course, if you can do work construction work, if you can help assemble things in a controlled environment, in a manufacturing facility rather than out on a job site, you can make things much, much safer. And that's been pretty well established in the industry. So we did see, I thought a surprisingly high number of architects saying that they at least consider prefabrication possibilities on their projects. 83%. we saw that about two thirds were really considering ways to make sure that buildings were safer during operations and maintenance, whether that was life lifecycle assessments or formal reviews during the design process.

But we only saw, oh, about half of them, 51% saying they do the same kind of formal reviews for construction safety. And that's key. You know, that difference. So you know, when their clients are involved, there's a higher level. But when it comes to those downstream from them in the process, there's still needs to be higher consideration. So what's holding them back? The biggest obstacle to them doing more are their concerns about taking on construction liability. That is a high, that is got to be the biggest hurdle that we've got to figure out how to get over before we can see more activity on this. And the second biggest and it's suggested way we can start addressing this is the lack of client interest that they report. And interestingly it having owners requested or clients requested is the biggest driver for architects. So, one of the real clear demonstrable findings of our studies is that owners are really going to be critical to help move the needle in the industry on this.

And one other last thing before I leave this behind. You know, usually when we look at drivers and obstacles, we tend to focus on the top things. You know, what's keeping them from doing things, what will really drives them. But in this particular case, one thing that was interesting is that very few of the architects or the contractors say that, no, no, no, we are not going to do PTD cause we don't believe in it because we don't believe that looking at these safety issues during design makes it a really big difference. Most of them did not agree with that statement. Most of them has clearly seem to recognize the value. So that suggests if we can get over some of these hurdles, it's not an education issue, it's, it's really addressing some fundamental issues that prevent wider adoption in the U.S.

 

Ben Johnson:    

So, we know technology has been a big factor in construction safety in, in recent years. And you also looked at technology trends onsite in this report. So, what did you learn about safety and technology?

 

Donna Laquidara-Carr:

Well, we actually looked at several different aspects of technology and I think the most interesting findings were about the benefits of BIM. So let's, let's start with those. So to me the top finding in the study was the difference between when we asked about BIM and safety in 2012 and when we asked about it in the current study in 2012, 42% of contractors said that they thought BIM helped improve safety in 2017 when we asked that same question, it's now 69%. And this is of course just BIM users, contractors who are using BIM. And when we talk about contractors are using BIM just to be very clear, we don't just mean those who are actually creating models. We also mean those who are using the model's created by others. And so that you understand it, we're talking about half of the total respondents fell into this BIM user category, but still 69% of those who use BIM are now saying that it improves jobs. I'd safety. It really is a striking difference.

 

Ben Johnson:    

So, what are the benefits of BIM for construction site safety?

 

Donna Laquidara-Carr

Well the, we actually asked that, we said what, you know, what are you using BIM for to actually see these safety impacts. And 82% said that they use BIM to identify potential site hazards before construction starts. That is clearly the major way that they're using BIM to contain safety. However, there was more than half that did several other things. 61% said that they're using BIM for clash detection and that, you know, which is common, I'm sure it's more than 61% but 61% felt that that activity also improves safety. 52% think that BIM improved safety by supporting the ability to prefabricate. And we already talked about how prefabrication has amazing safety implications and 51% think that BIM improved safety because of the ability to create three d images. Now anecdotally, we have heard from contractors in the past that some of the, the workers on site are getting less and less skilled at reading plans. And this ability to actually be able to visualize the project and understand it in three d could have extraordinary safety implications in that case.

 

Ben Johnson:    

Absolutely. And as a lay person who's attempted to read plans before, I much appreciate the 3D images that BIM can create. So, were there any other interesting technology trends found?

 

Donna Laquidara-Carr

Well, you know, we asked about the use of mobile technologies on site. We didn't necessarily link it to safety the way we did with BIM, but we saw that cell phone use has actually pretty much saturated now on site because we asked them how many of them were using cell phones now and how many of them expect to use cell phones into within two years on site. And for both cases, 2017 and 2019, it was 88%. So no change at all. And that is obviously a very high percentage. So we really think that cell phone use is nearly ubiquitous and we'll stay at that level for quite a while. Interestingly though, tablet use is still growing, we even though a pretty high percentage, 73% say they're using tablets now, 85% expect to use them in two years. So, there's obviously a lot of tools for tablets that people should start considering.

And us, you know, any ways you can get cell phones to address safety will also be important. We did take it a step further and ask about the tools they're using on these devices. Cameras are used by 85%. And I think, you know, when you look at the BIM findings and identifying potential site hazards before construction starts, it may seem very basic, but obviously a camera is a critical part of doing something like that, whether you're putting it in the model or not putting the images in the model or not. But we did see some other tools used by over 50% and the main one was project document sharing software and apps. Now that doesn't sound like a safety thing at all, but if you think about it, having a single source of truth for every company that's onsite does have safety implications.

We also, in addition to looking at the, the popular mobile tools, we also wanted to look at some of the emerging devices. Obviously between 2012 and 2017 we've seen an extraordinary growth in the type of things that are being used on site. And we asked about several of them. We didn't ask about everything yet. Others so many things, but we wanted to get at least a baseline on some emerging technologies. Three of them in particular that we asked about drones, laser scanning and wearable devices were actually used by a high enough percentage so that we could ask a follow on question of, okay. Your, we just asked if you're using these in general, what impact do you think they have on safety? None negative or positive and a way we found that over 70% of the contractors say that all three of these drones, laser scanning and wearable devices have a positive impact on safety. I believe the wearable devices was actually over 80%. So we can see that if, you know, if contractors are making these decisions based on whether they think these things will have an impact, there really is strong evidence that these are technologies worth investing in. And of course the prices on lots of them are coming down. They're becoming a little bit more ubiquitous. It will be really interesting if we can return to this in a few years and see where the use level is that and see if it's changed for any of these technologies.

 

Ben Johnson:    

Hey, it really is an exciting time for a safety in the, in the construction fields. So everything we've been talking about is available in the safety report. And how can listeners gain access to this report?

 

Donna Laquidara-Carr

Yes. Well I do want to actually let everyone know that we've only talked about a real top level high level amount of findings from this report. This is a 68 page report. It contains case studies. It contains a lot of interesting things that you know, a lot of findings I haven't had time to talk about with you today. So I do encourage anyone who's interested in this topic to go to the report. And most importantly, it is available for free download. The easiest place for you to get it is to just go to the construction.com website. You go to the toolkit listing in the dropdown will include reports. If you click on reports, it'll be right there. You won't be able to miss it. And again it is free for the download. I also to let anyone know who's interested in this topic that will be doing a much more thorough overview of the findings in a webinar coming up on January 30th. So I do encourage anyone who's interested to also attend that. It's cosponsored by Dodge and CPW are to register for that, go to the dodge website, the, the construction.com website and you'll be able to find instructions there.

 

Ben Johnson:    

That was great. Thank you very much, Donna. I as always, it's a pleasure to have you here. The pleasure to be here. I look forward to sharing more findings with you on other studies we have coming up in 2018.

Thanks again for joining us on "A Podcast That Builds". As always, you can visit Dodge at construction.com or (877) 784-9556. That'll do it for today's show. We'll see you next time.