News & Views

Working Platforms – Live Sites Required for Testing

Working platforms have long been a safety focus for the piling sector and an area the Federation of Piling Specialists (FPS) has devoted much effort to addressing for good reason.  As many as one third of all reported accidents occurring within the piling industry are considered to be attributable to defective working platforms.

Working platforms are critical for the safe operation and movement of heavy equipment such as piling rigs and cranes as well as other plant. Piling rigs and cranes are increasingly designed to meet the growing demand for ever deeper foundations. Some categories of piling rig are getting heavier and taller and presenting stability challenges to the designers of piling platforms. The platform is also the most basic traffic route for wheeled plant during the piling and the safe use by operatives walking on it are also a vital consideration. Although some incidents attributable to the working platform may only be regarded as a ‘near miss’, many can be viewed as potentially fatal and severe injury incidents.

The FPS’s Technical committee has recently highlighted the issues with working platforms not being tested, not being retested when altered, and not being designed economically or sustainably. It is estimated that fewer than 5% have undergone any testing at all. The alternative of guesswork is unacceptable where safety in general or potential fatalities are the ultimate risk. Testing, on the other hand, checks the design parameters used, in order to confirm platforms are safe and are not overly optimistic in the design assumptions., Testing also enables economy and sustainability by gathering data to avoid guessing too conservatively in the future.

Working platform testing is being approached by the both the DFI/EFFC and in the UK by the FPS. The DFI/EFFC are looking at rig loading using pressure cells and fibre optics, as well as subgrade testing, to provide platform verification. Here in the UK, efforts are being put into Light Weight Deflectometer (LWD), versus Plate load testing, to determine/verify angle of friction of platform material. There is input also from across Europe and much wider, including Australia and New Zealand.

Testing is producing results, but more site testing is needed to look at different deflectometers – different modulus output, as well as allowing the relationship between different deflectometers to be defined. Presently across three sites, some 6 Plate load tests per day have been recorded and for LWD, between 60 – 80 per day and from these results it is being examined if LWD modulus be calibrated with plate tests? Can LWD be used to provide minimum angle of friction for working platform too? For statistically meaningful data, obviously more sites are needed recording much greater volumes of data.

Results found already are interesting, as outlined in a recent presentation by David Corke, at the FPS Technical committee meeting held on Wednesday 7th September, which can be requested directly from the FPS.

With clearly much more data required, the FPS is appealing for more members to support the testing by providing live sites. If you would like to participate in the research, please contact David by email: djcorke@outlook.com