Construction risk library – standardising data to manage risks

Discovering Safety is working with the construction industry, academia and tech providers to develop a Construction Risk Library. This will be a bank of standardised data and processes which can be used alongside visualisation and modelling tools (such as Building Information Modelling – BIM) to mitigate safety risks in construction.

Designed with the construction industry at its heart, the tools and processes in the Construction Risk Library can also be used in other industries. The use of construction as a starting point was for a good reason – this is one of the most dangerous of all industries, where last year 81,000 UK workers suffered job-related injuries or illness. The Construction Risk Library will allow the construction industry to go further than ever before in eliminating safety risks from the earliest design stage of a project.

The Construction Risk Library project brings together the health and safety expertise of the HSE with Atkins (one of the biggest international names in design engineering, digital and data in the construction industry), academics from the University of Manchester and a software company, 3D Repo.

“100,000 people across the world lose their lives at work, and many times that number suffer life-altering injuries,” says Zane Ulhaq, an Associate Director from Atkins, who has been seconded to the HSE to develop the Construction Risk Library. Sharing health and safety risks and ways of using digital tools to manage them would help to prevent many of these needless injuries and deaths, he believes.

Zane is building on his previous experience as the lead of SafetiBase – a data management and visualisation tool developed by 3D Repo. SafetiBase had input from a consortium of industry partners working on ways of encouraging collaborative working on safety. To support his work on the project, Zane is the lead technical author for the new ISO 19650-6 standard on BIM for health and safety.

One of the first impacts of the Construction Risk Library will be to break down some of the barriers between designers and construction contractors. These roles are interlinked but they often don’t mix because of the way contracts are drawn up by clients (with design and construction stages separate).

Designs are often completed with little or no input from the people who will be building the project on site – and their knowledge can have a huge impact on how safe the construction programme is. Contractors also have specific methods of construction that can be unique to each organisation and need to be considered when preparing designs.

The Construction Risk Library will fill this critical information gap. It will provide data on risks and their associated treatments, enriched by 3D visualisations, throughout the design process. This will mean managing safety risks is thought about at the earliest possible stage - before a spade has hit the ground.

“Early and fundamental is better than late and requiring management,” says Gordon Crick, a HM Inspector of Health and Safety from the HSE’s Construction Division who is spearheading the project.

“Digital tools such as BIM provide us with a huge opportunity to share information, which can have massive benefits for safety and efficiency,” explains Gordon. “But currently the software is very expensive and doesn’t apply to health and safety.”

The first phase of the project was building a case for the use of BIM for safety management in construction, by consulting with industry partners. The next phase is to further develop the Construction Risk Library’s data repository, enriched with information from the HSE’s rich library of safety reports, as well as from the construction industry. Industry software vendors like 3D Repo will be able to use the repository, generating value throughout the design process regardless of which software platform is used.

The Construction Risk Library is being tested in sectors outside construction too – including the pharmaceutical industry.

“One of our industry partners, AstraZeneca, used the tool in one of their projects following a systematic approach to identify risk scenarios and propose treatments collaboratively,” says Carlos Osorio-Sandoval, a Research Associate from the University of Manchester who is supporting the project from an academic perspective. “The use of the tool led to identifying critical risks and a redesign prior to the tendering process. Later, AstraZeneca used the tool to communicate the identified risks with tenderers.”

The next phase is to gather as much data as possible and develop a ‘community of practice’ from industry.

“We have piloted the tool and its schema on a series of live construction projects and are now looking to develop the repository further,” says Zane. The project now needs as many partners from industry – construction and others – to get involved and inform it with as much data, expertise and site/design know-how as possible.

“We’re calling out to the rest of industry to get involved,” says Zane, “We need the right level of buy-in to help us move forward.”

The rewards will be great: “People are being put into situations every day that are not good for them. This is our request to industry – we have the ability, collectively, to try and stop this from happening,” he added.

The benefits of getting involved are clear. Our stakeholders and partners tell us that gaining access to our regulatory health and safety experts is invaluable to improving their outcomes. To get involved, email and a member of the team will be in touch.

Watch this new video where Carlos Osorio Sandoval (The University of Manchester) and Zane Ulhaq (Health and Safety Executive and Atkins Global) talk us through the Construction Risk Library project.