Crane mats are an essential step in laying a firm foundation when using heavy lifting equipment including vehicle-mounted cranes, and if you are not 100% certain of what lies beneath ground level, laying crane mats is an absolute must to help minimise the risk of subsidence during lifting.

Here are five steps towards safer lifting operations, thanks to the firm foundation laid using crane mats and outrigger pads, and a few simple precautions before and during the lifting operation itself.

1. Check the ground conditions

There are a few things to consider here – the type of ground surface, loose soil, wet sand etc, as well as any hidden risks below the surface, for example cavities left behind by underground storage tanks and utility ducts.

2. Choose your crane pads

Consider all of the characteristics of the crane pads you choose – their size, thickness, flexibility and load-bearing strength – and how these correspond to your lifting equipment and the ground conditions on which they will be used.

3. Add outrigger pads

Lifting equipment is more stable with outrigger pads – it’s as simple as that. They significantly broaden your contact base with the ground for a much more stable effective centre of gravity, and provide an extra layer of defence against the crane vehicle or other lifting equipment toppling over under an uneven load.

4. Lift evenly and within range

Don’t over-extend the lifting arm or try to hoist too much weight at once. If necessary (and possible) split the lifting operation into several parts so you can carry less weight or cover less distance, to keep all the variables within range – and look for signs of the outriggers starting to lift off of their outrigger mats, which could be a precursor to toppling over.

5. Watch for deformation

Crane mats and outrigger pads are designed to flex and absorb some of the pressure exerted on them, but look out for the entire mat sinking into the ground, as the soil itself might not be able to take the pressure, and this can quickly destabilise your vehicle or equipment.

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