Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association


BIM can “design out” safety hazards

Apr 22, 2014

BIM can identify and “design out” safety hazards


“Project preplanning” has always been important in order to follow an organized path to a successful project. In recent years, this fairly simple concept has grown into a popular tool to address safety and health in construction projects though the introduction of Prevention through Design (PtD) and Building Information Modeling (BIM).

PtD is the concept of identifying and removing occupational hazards early in the building design process and "designing” them out. Trends for safety include widespread use of guards for machinery, controls for elevators, and boiler safety practices. Enhanced design for ventilation in confined spaces, lockout/tagout controls, and fall protection also are in vogue.

Specific to fall protection, the concept of early intervention through design is being used as a companion to BIM. Using BIM to both identify fall protection hazards before building construction starts and add design features enabling safe and proper fall protection is a plus for everyone involved.

Adding fall protection design features into the design process, including BIM, allows for:

  • Proper communication of the fall protection details, including adding (and using) sound tie-off points.
  • Early determination of the types of fall protection required.
  • Obtaining required specialty items.
  • Adequate training opportunities for all workers.

Simple safety ideas—such as designing appropriate parapet walls at roof level, placing engineer-designed tie-off points such as concrete-embedded straps or hooks, or building permanent OSHA-compliant guardrails—can save lives by addressing fall protection early in the process and not on an “as needed” basis.

Using BIM to visually show the fall protection specifications before the project is underway is the best method of communicating the design requirements.

To learn more about Designing for Safety, visit OSHA’s Design for Safety website

For additional information on fall protection, prevention through design, and BIM, contact Mike McCullion, SMACNA’s director of safety and health ( / (703) 995-4027).