The Bangkok crane fall that highlights importance of crane mats

An incident that left ten schoolgirls injured in Bangkok provides a stark reminder of the importance of crane mats and outrigger pads to create a stable lifting platform for cranes and other lifting vehicles.

In mid-June, a tower crane used in the construction of a 20-storey hotel in the Thai capital fell on to an adjacent building, the Assumption Convent School, leaving ten of its female pupils injured.

The incident was not the first problem to occur at the construction site, which had previously been the subject of complaints after contractors working there dropped debris on numerous occasions on to the school grounds.

On April 1st, a suspension order was issued, calling for an immediate halt to all construction work on the River Garden Hotel site.

But the contractors ignored this, paving the way for the collapse of the tower crane some 8-10 weeks later.

Any failure of equipment is regrettable but when innocent young people are injured in a preventable incident, this is even worse – so how can crane mats help?

 

Creating lifting platforms with crane mats

Some reports describe how the crane ‘toppled’ before raining debris on the school, much of it crashing through the roof of the gymnasium during a PE lesson.

It is essential during any lifting activity to ensure that the crane is stable, including taking into account the shift in its centre of gravity caused by the additional weight of the load it is trying to lift.

This can cause a significant movement in terms of where the pressure of the crane is exerted on the ground.

Crane mats interlock to create a consistent lifting platform, helping to spread this pressure over a larger area and dissipate those highest downward forces.

On unstable ground or where there is a possibility of hidden cavities, underground storage tanks and utility conduits, this helps to reduce the risk of breaking through and toppling the crane.

Meanwhile outrigger pads effectively increase the base area of the crane or lifting vehicle, making it less likely that the centre of gravity will move fully beyond the base and create the necessary instability for the crane to topple.

Together these measures can help to improve stability of the crane structure and of the ground on which it stands – reducing the risk of an avoidable incident like the one above occurring at all.

Can bog mats be used as bridges?

Many work sites involve challenging terrain, and where you have a ditch, gulley or river, temporary bridges and permanent bridges can be required – so can bog mats be used for this?

It really depends on how heavy the traffic over the bridge deck will be, the ground it is being constructed on, and the type of bog mats used.

Obviously the more durable the bog mats, the sturdier and longer lasting the bridge will be, and it is common to see Ekki timber mats used on bridge decks and piers alike.

Emtek heavy equipment mats are also a good option for bridging applications, including constructing heavy-duty boardwalks over marshy land for plant machinery and vehicle access.

 

How to build a bridge with bog mats

There are several ways to build a bridge with bog mats, depending on a few factors like ground quality, clearance and how even or uneven the floor level is

For most everyday applications bog mats are laid directly on to the ground, but when it is uneven this becomes impractical or even impossible.

The first option is to lay long beams in the direction of the roadway and then lay bog mats across them in an H formation – like the sleepers across railway tracks.

On very soft ground, this formation is reversed, so that the beams are laid across to spread the weight over a larger area, with bog mats laid on top in the direction of the roadway.

Again, Emtek heavy equipment mats can be used in this way, with bog mats used as pilings to support the roadway.

 

Spanning gaps with bog mats

If you need to span a substantial gap, bog mats can be used but it is important to ensure they can take the weight of anything that will pass over the bridge.

Again an H formation is typical, with load-bearing beams used to span the trench and then bog mats laid across these.

This can be particularly effective for temporary bridges as bog mats can be placed quickly and are easy to remove once work is completed, with none of the bridge structure left behind.

When and where to use bog mats

“Do I need bog mats?” is one of our most frequently asked questions from customers, and the answer is that if you think you might need bog mats, then you probably do.

The good thing about timber mats is that they’re easy to position, easy to move to a new position, and versatile for use as everything from ground protection mats, to crane platforms, to temporary roadways.

Because of this, many of our customers choose to invest in some of our timber mats for sale, so that they have a stock of them set aside for all purposes in the future.

As for the question of exactly when and where to use bog mats, the short answer is that you can use them almost anywhere at any time to give you a more solid or stable platform to work on.

Our most durable bog mats will give you years of service life under normal conditions, or alternatively we have less durable timber mats that can be used in the kind of conditions that are likely to leave them unfit for future use anyway.

Where are bog mats needed?

Some specific examples of when and where to use bog mats include:

  • Tidal areas where the ground surface is constantly shifting e.g. sand or mud banks.
  • Waterlogged ground like river estuaries, wetlands and swamps to improve stability.
  • Land with low particle density or known subsidence issues to prevent sinking.

Ground protection mats

In addition to this, ground protection mats can be used when you know or suspect that there is a void beneath the surface and want to prevent equipment from breaking through.

And crane platforms can be put together in order to spread the weight of heavy lifting vehicles above, reducing the pressure on any one point on the ground.This can be taken even further using outrigger pads to spread the weight, lower the centre of gravity and improve overall stability during lifting operations.

 

It’s unusual to find a situation where using bog mats is specifically undesirable – they’re easy and quick to use, and don’t add to your insurance risk, but can massively improve safety and speed up operations on wet or unstable land.

How piling mats help preserve heritage

Piling mats can help to allow work to continue on heritage buildings, both protecting the existing building while work is completed, while also enabling essential piling and underpinning to support any new additions to the building fabric.

A great example of this kind of approach is the London Screen Academy, a post-16 free school currently under construction at Ladbroke House in Islington.

Preserving history, promoting progression

Once completed, the new 16-19 school will teach specialist skills relating to the screen industries e.g. film and television, so students can progress into employment or higher education.

The project is being overseen by the government-owned property company LocatED, on behalf of the Department for Education, and the site itself presents numerous challenges.

For example, the original 1920s exterior is being retained for heritage reasons, while the new school is essentially built from scratch within its footprint. Adjacent public roads and party walls complicate matters further.

 

In a recent progress update, LocatED show a time lapse video of demolition work within the building as the central space is hollowed out to create new studios.

Timber mats can be seen throughout the video for a range of different applications, from creating temporary platforms for work to continue, to their use as ground protection mats on each level of the building during demolition.

In buildings such as this, piling and underpinning is often required in order to support alterations to the structure above ground – and piling mats help to allow piling rigs to be used safely.

Versatile, reliable shape and size

One of the advantages of Timbermat piling mats is that they can be taken into the building through a relatively small opening, but can be lifted and moved easily and joined to create a near-seamless working platform.

This is especially crucial in buildings with basements or cellars, or other voids below ground level, as a piling rig platform helps to spread the weight of the heavy equipment above so it does not break through any weak spots.

In this way, buildings can be renovated and significantly altered structurally, while retaining their outer facade so that the heritage of the premises remains intact, especially in historically significant locations or conservation areas.

 

Timbermat sell and rent timber mats of different sizes and wood types. If you have a delicate operation like LocatED does, get in touch with us now.

How to free heavy machinery stuck in mud

If you need to free heavy machinery stuck in mud, you’re likely to need two things: more heavy machinery, and a way to reach the equipment that is already bogged down.

Where to start with mud-trapped machinery

Assuming the machinery already stuck is not able to escape the mud even with a dry clean roadway, then it’s important to consider not only the weight of the equipment used to pull it out, but also the additional forces that will be exerted during the pulling or lifting process.

Because of this, it’s crucial to spread the load of the lifting vehicle so as to minimise the downward pressure on the mud and prevent another vehicle from getting stuck.

How can Timbermat help?

We supply emtek heavy equipment mats for some of the most challenging working environments, as they can be used in different configurations to overcome obstacles like waterlogged land and even bridging across gaps. These uniquely engineered timber mats are substantially stronger than standard bog mats and are fully tested, making it possible to calculate specific deflection and ground pressure conditions under certain loads.

On extremely boggy land, emtek bog mats can be laid in an H-configuration with mats laid across beneath the main temporary roadway, effectively acting as outriggers to spread the pressure over a larger area.

This can create an access roadway even on extremely challenging sites, providing a means for the rescue vehicle to reach the swamped equipment and haul it out on to the roadway.

Can you build a road to freedom?

In some cases where equipment is only partially bogged down but unable to move, it may be possible to free it by laying a clean, dry and solid temporary roadway right up to the tyres to provide some purchase.

Again emtek heavy equipment mats are a good choice for this on very wet ground, and we have an extensive range of alternative options that could also be suitable in less challenging conditions.

For this purpose, the idea is to lay a dry roadway in front of the vehicle (or behind it, if attempting to reverse out of a mud slick) and use its own engine and tyre tread to establish enough grip with the textured surface of the timber mats and transfer enough power to drive out on to dry and solid ground.

Timbermat can help free your trapped equipment. Just get in contact with us today to discuss options. It might also be a good idea to be prepared for next time!

How to maintain timber mats to keep them in good condition

Good quality timber mats will give you years and even decades of service life, with only some simple maintenance needed to keep them safe from avoidable damage.

Here’s our five-point guide to how to maintain timber mats to keep them in good condition for many years to come.

 

1. Know your type of timber mat

Different timber mat species have different service lifetimes, so make sure you know how long you can expect your timber mats to stay in peak condition.

Tropical hardwoods with the highest durability ratings can last for decades, whereas some of our European hardwood mats are rated for closer to 5-10 years.

 

2. How to keep timber mats clean

Timber mats are designed for outdoor use, so it is generally not a problem if they occasionally get wet or muddy, but you should avoid prolonged exposure to wet and dirty conditions.

Because of this, once you have finished using them on a job, you should clean any surface dirt and then allow the timber to dry out before storing them in a dry place – ideally somewhere indoors – until the next job.

 

3. Avoid damaged edges

The edges of timber ground mats are more exposed to damage, so try to keep vehicles in the middle of your temporary roadway or working platform whenever possible.

You can protect the edges of timber mats even more by using access ramps at the entry and exit point and ensuring adjacent mats are laid fully flush to one another and joined together using the designated connecting points where these are provided.

 

4. Replace damaged timber mats

When damage occurs, replace damaged timber mats at the first opportunity. This takes the damaged mats out of circulation so that you are always using safe and stable temporary roadways and crane platforms.

We have plenty of good quality timber mats for hire, so if you find you are facing an unexpected need to replace damaged timber mats from your own stock, it could be a fast and economic option to hire some as a temporary solution.

 

5. Hire or buy?

As well as timber mats for hire, we have a varied range of responsibly sourced timber mats for sale, with different characteristics to suit different needs.

If you have a job coming up and don’t have the right kind of ground protection mats, for example if you are using heavier crane vehicles than usual, give us a call and we can recommend the right timber mats for sale at the present time, which you will then have close to hand for future work whenever you need them.

Durability classes of timber mats – how do tropical hardwoods compare?

The durability of tropical hardwood timber mats is one of the main selling points, with decades of use under normal conditions – but what are the durability classes of timber mats like Ekki and Dabema?

First of all, the obvious disclaimer – wood is a natural product and when used under different conditions, especially challenging conditions like heavy construction sites, its durability will vary.

But a dense tropical hardwood timber mat will generally outlast a softer wood due to the more closely knit fibres within the timber, and durability classes of timber mats are there as a guide to this.

Timbermat Class Scale

Class 1 timber mats are the most durable of all. When used in contact with the ground, as our timber mats usually are, these should last for a minimum of 25 years.

With intermittent use and careful storage, this lifespan can be extended considerably – and the toughest tropical timber mats like Ekki could easily stay in usable condition for 50 years or more.

 

Class 2 timber mats are rated for 15-25 years, while…

 

Class 3 timber mats last for an expected 10-15 years. Again, this all depends on usage and ground conditions, including exposure to tidal and saltwater locations.

 

Class 4 timber mats have an expected life span of 5-10 years.

 

Class 5 timber mats are the least durable at between zero and 5 years.

 

Types of Hardwood

So how do tropical hardwood timber mats compare with European hardwood timber mat species?

 

Ekki is generally regarded as one of the world’s most durable hardwood species, if not the most durable of them all. It’s a Class 1 hardwood with an expected life of up to 50 years or more.

 

Dabema is a close runner-up, and is rated at between Class 1 and Class 2 – a durable option for all but the heaviest duty applications.

 

In European hardwoods, Oak is our most durable option. Ranking as a Class 2 timber, oak wood mats give you up to about 25 years of use in normal conditions.

 

Beech by contrast is a Class 5 timber, which means up to five years of usage, yet during that time beech timber mats offer some high strength characteristics, including resistance to crushing and abrasion.

 

If you’re not sure which durability class to choose, or how your usual operating conditions might affect the lifespan of your timber mats, give us a call on 08000 12 1231
and we’ll be happy to talk you through the options.

Road matting continues the drive towards safer work sites

Road matting can help to keep active work sites safe, by creating stable temporary roadways for use by construction vehicles until a permanent road surface is laid.

By laying road matting, you can give lifting equipment a solid base to work on, segregate foot traffic from vehicle flows and mark out safe routes across the site, for example avoiding low bridges and overhanging masonry, exposed trenches and other obstacles.

Safe practices on construction sites

For inspiration on these and other safety practices, you can look to the UK’s public roads agency Highways England, which faces additional challenges as much of the work it carries out takes place on roads that are open to public use at the same time.

In its 70th year, the International Road Federation (IRF Global) named Highways England as the winner of its 2018 Global Road Safety Award, recognising the government-run organisation for its commitment to reducing road traffic injuries.

President and CEO of IRF Global C Patrick Sankey said: “The guidelines and contractor oversight practices established by Highways England to eradicate danger on road construction sites are widely praised for their results, and are an inspiration for road agencies worldwide.”

Future road safety concerns

Richard Leonard, head of road safety, safety engineering and standards at Highways England, added: “We believe passionately in the safety of everyone using our roads and, although they are among the safest in the world, we are always working hard to improve them.

“We have a long-term goal that no-one should be harmed while travelling or working on our network and are working with others on innovative ideas to achieve that.”

This includes safety guidelines for telehandlers and other lifting equipment used on the road network, to ensure suitable crane mats are placed down to stabilise mobile lifting equipment where the weight needs to be distributed more evenly across the road surface.

 

While most construction sites across other industries are not open to the public while work is being carried out, road matting can protect the workforce against threats both above ground and hidden below the surface.

And on those sites where public access is required, for example because there is a legal right of way or there is no suitable alternative route in the interim, road matting can identify the safe and correct route to take across the site, further reducing the risk of injury.

Get in touch with Timbermat today if you have safety requirements to protect your employees and construction site.

Types of temporary walkway for construction sites

What type of temporary walkway is best for your project?

Temporary walkway mats are a quick, versatile way to create a safe path across construction sites – so what are the different ways to use them?

You might be surprised that there are actually several options when it comes to laying temporary walkways on construction sites – here are just a few different ways you can do it.

Pedestrian walkways

Pedestrian walkways keep foot traffic separate from vehicles and mobile equipment, and can also mark out important routes across construction sites, such as from the gate to the site office.

Because pedestrian walkway mats are easy to move using standard lifting equipment, your pathways can be relaid as and when you need to change the route or clear the area for construction work.

High-grip textured walkway mats

For improved safety, especially in wet or muddy conditions, textured walkway mats offer a high-grip surface that is particularly good for improved pedestrian grip.

Our pedestrian walkway mats actually offer two different sizes of grip, depending on which way up you lay the mat, and this allows you to choose between the standard size suitable for general pedestrian use, or the more rugged reverse side for enhanced grip in extreme conditions and for wheeled machinery and vehicles.

Heavy-duty combined roadways

If you’re concerned about the total weight of pedestrians, equipment, vehicles and heavy plant passing over your combined roadways, Emtek heavy-duty mats are an excellent option.

Their engineered construction means they can support much higher loads, with interlocking clips to secure multiple mats together and create a smooth, consistent surface free from trip hazards.

Should I hire or buy temporary walkway mats?

As always, we have stocks of temporary walkway mats to hire or to buy – so the choice is up to you. Low rental prices mean you can create a temporary pathway across a construction site without adding too much to your budget for the project.

Temporary walkway mats to buy mean they are there when you need them – and with the different grip options on each side of the mat, you are not limited to a single method of using the pedestrian walkway mats you buy.

American Oak Quercus Alba crane mats take the strain

Timbermat American Oak Quercus Alba crane mats, temporary roadways and ground protection mats are an excellent option on sites where you need to create a safe and stable platform for heavy-duty mobile equipment and protect against penetrating the surface below.

Already in September we have seen the importance of crane mats in Manchester city centre, after a wheeled crane vehicle broke through the pavement outside the Debenhams department store on Market Street.

Images of the incident posted on social networks show the vehicle at a sideways tilt, with one rugged tyre buried in the broken flagstones and the corner entrance to the store completely blocked as a result. Council workers later fenced off the surrounding pavement, in an attempt to prevent passers-by from being put at risk.

Over a week later, the vehicle still had not been recovered, and it is largely down to chance that the shop has been able to stay open just using other entrances, and the nearby Metrolink service has been able to continue operating too.

American Oak crane mats – thick, heavy, sustainable

Our American Oak Quercus Alba crane mats provide a sustainable way to spread the weight of heavy crane vehicles, delivery trucks and other vehicles and mobile equipment to reduce the risk of putting a tyre or track through a paved surface, or through any other unstable or fragile ground layer.

American white oak is sustainably produced under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, so you know when you buy Quercus Alba crane mats or hire American Oak ground protection mats from Timbermat, you are complying with import regulations and protecting the environment too.

The timber is medium-strength against crushing and bending, with low stiffness, making it ideal to absorb the shocks of heavy equipment passing overhead – the flexibility dissipating the peak forces throughout the mats rather than exerting it on a specific spot at high pressure.

We supply American Oak timber mats in thicker measurements, and in larger sizes, to maximise this dissipation of forces across a larger area, reducing the risk of an incident like the one that took place on Market Street in Manchester earlier this month. If you have specific requirements, get in touch today and a member of our team will discuss options with you.

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