At-Risk UK Employees

At Timbermat, we work hard to develop temporary access solutions which help workers navigate even the most unstable of sites as safely as possible. We understand all jobs carry an element of danger, but by understanding the risks involved and which sectors are most likely to see worker injury, everyone can act to mitigate these risks.

We have analysed Government data from 2015 to today to establish exactly where workplace injuries occur and which areas are most at-risk.

The main thing we have discovered is the fact that construction workers continue to be the most likely to suffer fatal injuries at work. While making up around 7% of the UK’s total workforce, construction accounts for 28% of the UK’s fatal accidents at work, with 176 construction workers dying as a result of a workplace accident since 2015. The most of any sector.

Alarmingly, the agricultural sector has seen almost 20% of the UK’s fatal accidents over the last five years despite only making up 1.1% of the total UK workforce, identifying an urgent need to continue acting to identify and mitigate risks in agriculture.

Despite this, agriculture and construction had a much lower injury rate per 100,000 employees than several other sectors. You’re most at risk of suffering a non-fatal injury at work in the manufacturing industry, where we’ve seen an average of 1,870 injuries per 100,000 workers over the last five years. The only other sector to see over 1,000 was the water/waste management sector, with 1,023 per 100,000 – highlighting just how much more common it is to be injured when working in manufacturing than anywhere else.

The infographic below illustrates the key findings from our analysis – you can use the embed code at the bottom of the page to easily embed it on your website.

infographic showing injuries and deaths at work 2015-2020

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Types of hardwood Timbermat uses for bog mats and where they are best used

If you’ve ever wondered what types of hardwood Timbermat use in our ground protection mats, this article is for you. We’ll take a look at our European hardwood and tropical hardwood bog mats, the differences between the types of timber used, and where the mats are best suited for.

European Hardwood

European hardwood timber mats are made of oak or beech, and are a little less durable than their tropical hardwood counterparts.

That doesn’t mean they’re less valuable though. Beechwood timber mats can last up to five years of normal use, and have excellent eco credentials as the wood is relatively locally sourced, making them a great choice for environmentally friendly projects like nature reserves and green building construction.

Oak is much more durable, coming under Class 2 or an expected usable life span of 15 to 25 years. Oak timber mats are a good option for temporary roadways and walkways. They have high crushing strength and can withstand not only pedestrian footfall, but also normal vehicle traffic like delivery trucks and small lifting vehicles.

Tropical Hardwood

Tropical hardwood bog mats are rightly respected for their unbeatable durability and longevity.

At Timbermat we use two tropical hardwood species: Dabema and Ekki. Dabema bog mats are also Class 2, so they should match the 15-25 year life span of our oak timber mats. They’re sometimes referred to as Dahoma or simply as African Teak, and are versatile for use in general ground protection roles, temporary roadways and even piling rig platforms.

Ekki timber mats offer probably the best durability in the world, a Class 1 product lasting 50 years or more if handled reasonably well. Ekki bog mats are especially well suited to wet environments, and they can cope with wetlands, nature reserves and even tidal areas without significantly reducing the usable life span of the timber.

Which type of timber mats should I choose?

This rough guide should have provided you with a rule of thumb for some common applications, and the final decision is often based on durability. We have European hardwood mats and tropical hardwood mats available to buy or to hire.

If you’re still not sure what you need, please contact us – we’ll be happy to help you decide on the best type of timber mats for the job.

Common risks on construction sites that timber mats mitigate

Timber mats mitigate a wide range of different risks on construction sites, including some of the most common everyday issues encountered by building crews.

Because bog mats are often referred to as ground protection mats, it’s easy to think they just protect the ground beneath your work area – but they can do so much more.

Ground Protection Mats

When you just need to protect the ground you’re working on, bog mats are a cost-effective option.

They’re easy to move into place, cover large areas quickly, and provide a physical barrier against muddy ground – or to prevent grassy land from getting churned into mud by building site activity and rugged vehicle tyres.

Crane Lifting Platforms

Timber mats can be used to construct stable crane lifting platforms. They help to spread pressure on the ground more evenly and can also spread the forces exerted by outriggers.

It’s still important to check that the ground can take the weight of your crane or other lifting vehicle, but timber crane mats can reduce the risk of breaking through the floor into any individual voids below the surface.

Demolition Protection

What goes up must come down, and timber mats make excellent demolition protection mats, to catch rubble and other falling debris instead of leaving it to impact the exposed ground.

Even if this damages the timber mat beyond further future use, the low-cost materials used and recyclable nature of wood mean this is preferable to damaging a road or pavement that must then be reinstated at significant expense.

Temporary Roadways

As temporary roadways, bog mats can solve a range of risks, by showing safe routes for traffic, creating one-way systems, and segregating vehicles from pedestrians.

They can also be used to create temporary pathways for visitors to the site, so you don’t face the risk of members of the public walking unannounced into active work areas.

Wetlands and Tidal Zones

When working in wetlands and in tidal areas, timber mats are an easy and effective way to keep vehicles and equipment in the dry.

They can be stacked in a criss-cross H-shaped configuration – similar to trainline rails laid on top of sleepers – to provide extra height and stay above changing water levels while work is safely carried out.

How has Coronavirus impacted the bog mats market?

The Coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown hit the UK economy hard, especially those sectors – like construction – that were unable to work from home.

Although some building sites remained open, workers were told to stay more than two metres apart wherever possible, and to make other inconvenient changes to working practices – such as using ladders instead of enclosed lifts to reach upper storeys.

Together with the sites that were unable to operate at all, this has had a chilling effect on the bog mats market in 2020, which has been replicated in many affected countries around the world.

In a report titled Global Bog Mats Market Insights, Forecast to 2026, analysts at QYResearch explain the various roles of bog mats in construction, and how the sector has taken a threefold hit from COVID-19.

“Bog mats are an ideal ground protection solution for creating long-term temporary access roads on to construction sites, and limit the impact on the environment,” the report explains.

“COVID-19 can affect the global economy in three main ways: by directly affecting production and demand; by creating supply chain and market disruption; and by its financial impact on firms and financial markets.”

The financial impact has already been seen with a steep dip in the UK economy during the summer months; however, there is still significant hope that it will bounce back much more rapidly than from a conventional recession such as that of 2008.

With many sectors starting to open back up, albeit with new ‘one metre plus’ social distancing measures in place, demand is starting to return for bog mats and other supplies used across the construction industry and other similar disciplines.

At Timbermat we continue to supply bog mats for sale if you want to secure a supply of your own ground protection mats for upcoming projects, as well as bog mats for hire if you have only a one-off or short-term need.

With activity returning to the construction sector, we will service demand from all our customers to the best of our ability – helping to make sure that the UK economy as a whole can bounce back quickly and strongly from the effects of lockdown.

When is the best time to hire or buy bog mats?

At Timbermat we have bog mats to buy and hire – so how do you know whether to buy or rent bog mats, and when to do so?

First of all, we can answer the question of when to buy or hire timber mats. If you’re looking to hire, just get in touch as soon as possible, and we can make sure we have the right type and quantity ready for when you need them.

If a project is still in the pipeline, that’s fine. It’s better to let us know in advance if possible, so we can stock up or set some of our timber mats to one side as your expected start date approaches.

On the other hand, if you’re thinking about buying bog mats of your own, again there’s no reason to delay. Timber mats have little to no impact on insurance and because they’re made of wood, there’s no great material value, so they are not a security concern.

Customers who buy bog mats from Timbermat usually have an ongoing need for ground protection mats, temporary roadways and lifting platforms, so there’s really no time like the present to stock up.

Should I buy or hire bog mats?

Our tropical hardwood mats are durable and can offer years of repeated use with very little care required – just store them out of the elements when you can and discard any mats if the timbers become broken or badly damaged.

Because they’re easy to store and look after, with no great appeal to thieves, many of our customers choose to buy bog mats so you know you will have them at hand each time you need them.

However, we also know there are several good reasons why you might want to hire bog mats for a single project:

  • No ongoing need for large quantities of timber mats.
  • Nowhere to store them, or no desire to do so.
  • Manage costs on a per-project basis.

For all of these reasons, we try to always have a good supply of tropical hardwood mats available, so you can get the number and type you need, when you need them. Just call Timbermat if you’d like to enquire about availability for an upcoming job.

How are construction activities being impacted by COVID-19?

Many industries have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, not only indirectly by employees self-isolating or otherwise staying at home, but also directly in a variety of different ways.

Construction is one of the sectors most directly hit, with a cliff-edge drop in activity overnight at the start of the outbreak and clear challenges to opening back up.

As we move through the coming months, the restrictions and guidelines on social distancing measures will vary depending on the rate of infection in the community, with implications for construction activity.

Supply chains

The construction industry supply chain is huge and complex. From energy-intensive manufacturers right down to self-employed tradespeople, the skills and materials that go into building a house, commercial premises or infrastructure are vast.

Supply chain disruption will remain a significant threat to construction activity, including getting jobs completed on schedule and on budget, throughout the rest of 2020 and beyond.

Workforce issues

As mentioned above, the availability of skilled and manual labour could be impacted at any time, depending on the number of people who fall ill with COVID-19 or who self-isolate as a precaution.

The incoming track and trace regime aims to isolate anyone who has come into contact with an infected person – so although total infections at any one time should be lower, the number of people who have to stay at home could still be higher.

Construction site safety

Health and hygiene will be watchwords for construction site safety in COVID-19 until a cure or vaccine is found, which could take many months and may not be 100% effective over the long term.

This ranges from hand washing and social distancing, to greater awareness of keeping surfaces clean – something that is not always easy to achieve on building sites.

How Timbermat can help

Timbermat products can help you more than you might think when preparing a building site for work during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Bog mats give you a solid surface to work on, which can be cleaned down regularly. They also help to define a work area so you can control how many people are within that area at any one time.

Finally, if you need more bog mats in order to spread out your workers more to comply with the recommended social distancing measures, we have timber mats for hire and for sale, so you can give all of your employees and contractors the safe space they need.

How to keep staff as safe as possible on construction sites during COVID-19

The closure of pubs and restaurants has left many people with the belief that only key workers are still travelling to and from their jobs.

But while some office jobs can be done from home, the government guidance has not banned most workplaces from continuing to operate if staff must be there in person.

One sector where this is the case for the vast majority of employees is construction, but with large numbers of builders and tradespeople on some sites, many working in the industry have raised concerns about safety.

Site operators now face the challenge of continuing large construction projects at pace and on schedule, while keeping staff as safe as possible in all areas of the site.

Here are some measures you can take to adhere to the government’s guidance on social distancing, which should be applied in workplaces as far as possible.

Cleanliness and hygiene

Hygiene is the first step towards protecting against COVID-19 in all settings. Encourage staff to wash their hands frequently, lathering well with soap for over 20 seconds each time.

Coughing and sneezing should be kept to a minimum, but when it is unavoidable, it is important to cover the nose and mouth – face masks may be appropriate on some sites if they are available.

Surfaces should also be kept clean if possible, and you should try to avoid having all employees touch the same surface, for example on keypad entry systems.

Social distancing

In addition to destroying the virus using soap and sanitisers, distance provides an invisible barrier to prevent the spread of infection.

A minimum spacing of two metres should be maintained between workers wherever possible, not only to protect health, but also to prevent sickness absences and lost productivity.

Most of our bog mats come in a standard width of one metre and a length of 3-5 metres, so can provide a useful visual reference for maintaining distance around your construction site.

Finally, sector-specific guidance on social distancing for construction sites can be accessed via the UK government’s GOV.UK website, with advice such as limiting the number of employees who can share a lift or, ideally, using stairs instead.

How to safely set up your crane

The tower and mobile cranes setup procedure requires meticulous setup to avoid any catastrophic accidents during lifting operations.

This includes instability and damage caused by:

· Soft and undermined ground conditions

· Hidden utilities and conduits

· Overbalanced cranes

Ground protection mats help you to control for these common crane hazards by spreading the pressure of the crane over a larger area, as well as expanding the base area over which the centre of gravity can be safely located.

Using crane mats to build a lifting platform

First of all, crane safety requires to have a competent person with the relevant safety training to survey the ground in order to identify any hidden hollows and other potential hazards below the surface.

These can create pockets that the crane can fall into – and even a small cavity can leave the crane leaning in a dangerous position.

Crane mats can be used to span smaller spaces below the surface, by ensuring that the pressure is applied over a level lifting platform instead of on a single point of contact.

Widening the base area

Outrigger pads are a way to increase the effective base area of the crane so that the centre of gravity cannot move to an unstable position.

Again, using outrigger mats spreads the pressure of the crane’s outriggers over an area, reducing the risk of crane accidents due to an outrigger sinking into soft ground or breaking through into an undetected cavity.

They also help to create a flat and level surface for the outrigger to make contact with, which can be helpful if the ground itself is not completely level or even.

Things to consider

It’s important to assess the type of outrigger pads and crane mats you need, according to the soil type, the size of your crane or other lifting equipment and the total load you need to lift, among other things.

You might want to consider:

· The size of outrigger mats you need.

· The type and maximum load of crane mats.

At all times, make sure you observe your lifting platform, crane mats and outrigger pads carefully, and halt your lifting operations if you notice any significant deformation.

For more information about crane mats, lifting platforms and outrigger mats, contact Timbermat today and we will be happy to help.

Impact of climate change on flooding in the UK

Storm Ciara had barely blown over the UK in early February before Storm Dennis was announced, bringing another weekend of wet and windy weather to much of the country.

This might feel like a pattern in recent years, when crisp, cold, snowy winter days have been relatively few compared to blustery weather and prolonged downpours.

And we could be set to see weather events like Storm Ciara and the Beast from the East become more commonplace, based on a major study published in the journal Nature in 2019.

Flooding on the rise in Europe

The research pulled together data for thousands of rivers across Europe from academic sources including the University of Bath and the University of Liverpool.

It found flooding due to burst riverbanks has increased in northern Europe in the past 50 years, while decreasing in southern Europe.

For those working in engineering and construction in the UK, this trend is unavoidable, with the potential to cause significant disruption if you’re not well prepared.

Dr Thomas Kjeldsen of the University of Bath said: “Incorporating the evidence of increasing flood risk into engineering design and general flood management would ensure we are better prepared for future changes.”

Dr Neil Macdonald from Liverpool University’s Department of Geography & Planning added: “Flood management must adapt to the realities of our changing climate and associated flood risk over the coming decades.”

How to adapt?

One simple way to do this on building sites at relatively low cost is through the use of timber bog mats, which can quickly and easily cover over wet and muddy ground.

Stacking bog mats in an H-formation, similar to laying railway lines over sleepers, can raise walkways and temporary roads above the level of waterlogged land, allowing work to proceed uninterrupted.

At Timbermat we’ve been supplying bog mats for sale and hire for many years, including for use on marshland, beaches and other tidal locations.

Timber bog mats are relatively cheap, with little to no impact on site insurance costs, and are manufactured from completely sustainable timber – minimising their environmental impact.

Responsible forestry can even have benefits for the environment, as trees are a natural store of carbon, making timber mats an all-round positive solution to the future challenges of climate change and increased risk of flooding on construction sites across the UK.

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