Construction Safety Ontology Development and Alignment with Industry Foundation Classes (IFC)

Karim Farghaly, Ranjith K. Soman, William Collinge, Patrick Manu, Mojgan Hadi Mosleh, Clara Cheung

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A pronounced gap often exists between expected and actual safety performance in the construction industry. The multifaceted causes of this performance gap are resulting from the misalignment between design assumptions and actual construction processes that take place on-site. In general, critical factors are rooted in the lack of interoperability around the building and work-environment information due to its heterogeneous nature. To overcome the interoperability challenge in safety management, this paper represents the development of an ontological model consisting of terms and relationships between these terms, creating a conceptual information model for construction safety management and linking that ontology to IfcOWL. The developed ontology, named Safety and Health Exchange (SHE), comprises eight concepts and their relationships required to identify and manage safety risks in the design and planning stages. The main concepts of the developed ontology are identified based on reviewing accident cases from 165 Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) and 31 Press Releases from the database of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the United Kingdom. Consequently, a semantic mapping between the developed ontology and IfcOWL (the most popular ontology and schema for interoperability in the AEC sector) is proposed. Then several SPARQL queries were developed and implemented to evaluate the semantic consistency of the developed ontology and the cross-mapping. The proposed ontology and cross-mapping gained recognition for its innovation in utilising OpenBIM and won the BuildingSMART professional research award 2020. This work could facilitate developing a knowledge-based system in the BIM environment to assist designers in addressing health and safety issues during the design and planning phases in the construction sector.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)94-108
JournalElectronic Journal of Information Technology in Construction
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2022


  • Building Information Modelling, BIM, Ontology, Linked Data, Prevention through Design, Design for safety.

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Thomas Ashton Institute


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