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Conference Spotlights Innovation To Improve Health And Safety

17 September 2013

A Costain-organised conference put the spotlight on using an increasingly popular technology to improve site health and safety.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) allows a project’s planners, designers and construction team to progressively add information about the job to an electronic database as it progresses.

The background to the conference was an approach by a Health & Safety Executive (HSE) official to SHE Director, Peter Fisher, “who asked me what we were doing on BIM in regards to safety. I put him in touch with Matt Blackwell, who has been leading on BIM and has done all the hard work to get it to this stage.”

As a result, said Head of BIM, Matt: “Several months ago, HSE officials came to see me, to talk about BIM and how we could use it to improve safety performance and mitigate against risk.

“We suggested holding a conference on the subject and they said ‘Great. Go ahead and organise it!’”

After much work behind the scenes, the ‘BIM for health and safety’ event took place at the Institution of Structural Engineers’ headquarters in London.

Determined to make the event memorable, Matt and his colleague Melanie Dyer created a ‘speed-dating’ format for the conference. A timer gave each speaker just 15 minutes to put across  their presentation.

Additionally, Matt and Melanie made extensive use of the internet to organise the event: “We relied quite heavily on social media to publicise it, drum up attendees and find speakers,” he explained.

The tactic worked well: over six hours, 19 speakers gave their ideas on how to use BIM to make workplaces safer. “We had contractors, consultants, supply chain, plus a lot of universities presenting research,” he said. “The idea was that people would take something away from the day and use their own site to use the ideas to prevent injuries or deaths.

“We were quite conscious of not making it seem like a Costain marketing exercise,” added Matt. “The Construction Industry Council allowed us to ‘badge’ it with their name and gave us a lot of support.

“Feedback has been universally excellent and other people are now looking to adopt this ‘speed-dating’ approach.”

Technical Director, Bill Hewlett, agreed the event had been very successful: “People were invited on the basis that they would give a presentation. The ‘entry price’ was to be a BIM practitioner and to have something that you were prepared to contribute and were happy to share for everyone’s benefit.

“We obviously feel very strongly about health and safety, have a growing interest in BIM and wanted to support best practice in health and safety.”

Added Peter: “The HSE has subsequently spoken to me about how pleased they are with Matt’s engagement and help.”