The integration of digital tools to mitigate health and safety risks

by Paul Thorpe | December 8, 2023 |  4 min read

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No individual or organisation can predict specific risks, but we can be prepared for them!

The nature of risk is volatile and will vary from project to project. However we can learn from past experiences to prepare us for the future and put in place preventative measures. One such way to do this is to utilise technology in the preparation and prevention process.

As regulatory authorities around the world expand their scope in identifying risk, organisations need to move at a rapid pace to be continually compliant. At BIM Academy, we are in a unique position that we can combine our digital and safety services to support clients in their risk management strategies.

One of the first steps in risk management is to identify potential sources of risk, technology can help with this by collecting, analysing and visualising data to both predict and mitigate risk. Technology can help to provide solutions, systems and processes to enhance capabilities, efficiency and safety. 

Construction Risk Library

In May 2023, BIM Academy was awarded a contract with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Discovering Safety to work on a new Construction Risk Library (CRL). The CRL will be digital toolkit to assist designers in their health and safety work through the sharing of knowledge in a visual environment, enabling designers to access and benefit from endless health and safety data.

HSE has been leading the Discovering Safety Programme for five years. Discovering Safety is funded by the Lloyds Register foundation, and part of its purpose is to enable HSE to make better use of its information sources by using digital technology.

Part of its work has been focused on the development of the CRL, which aims to help designers and contractors identify, manage and above all treat risks effectively in the design and planning stages of construction work. The process when complete, will work through a hierarchy of potential preventive measures, starting with measures to eliminate, or if this is not possible, reduce risks through subsequent design. Discovering Safety states that these measures could be used in early stage design, so that risks never make it to the construction site.

Let’s chat about health and safety

As part of our research into the development of the new CRL, we have introduced an artificial intelligence (AI) powered chatbot. A chatbot is a computer program that simulates and processes human conversation (either written or spoken), allowing humans to interact with digital devices as if they were communicating with a real person.

The CRL chatbot is partially powered by large language model (LLM) technology from OpenAI’s ChatGPT API to create a new conversational experience for people to seek solutions to potential risks. This will be a new way to search and explore exponentially the vast amount of information available to us globally on health and safety.

CRL chatbot users can ask safety and risk related questions, as well as more specific queries to support their research and strategic planning. The AI will then visualise the risk(s) and offer the top five possible mitigation strategies.

The AI can also take it one step further and in addition to the requested response, will advise on three further potential risks based on the scenario presented.

Our primary goal at BIM Academy has always been to leverage technology to make the design and construction process more efficient. Recent developments with generative AI are accelerating the work we have been doing for years with machine learning to enhance and improve every aspect of a clients’ project. The use of AI in the CRL is the logical next step in exploring how we can firstly better understand health and safety risks, and secondly, how to take action to mitigate and eliminate these risks.

This programme of work, combining BIM Academy’s expertise with that of the HSE and Discovering Safety, will assist the construction industry to better understand the global health and safety landscape, its challenges and solutions. Together, with the support of a team of industry experts, we are applying expertise in data science, data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning to health and safety contexts.

To find out more about the CRL project and our work in AI and digital construction processes, contact Paul directly at [email protected].

About the author

Paul Thorpe

Director, BIM Academy

Paul is experienced in managing the digital delivery of large scale construction and infrastructure projects across the globe. Paul joined the BIM Academy team on his return to the UK after living and working in Hong Kong for several years.

Paul has specialisms in information management, BIM execution, digital twin development and delivery, and digital transformation. Paul is a Project Management Professional with the Project Management Institute (PMI) and a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB).

With a proven ability to build and lead high performing teams across major projects, Paul brings his experience in developing digital business plans and executing company wide digital strategies to BIM Academy.