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To get a construction project done safely, you must make sure you are working on stable ground. Surprisingly, this can sometimes be a bigger challenge for construction managers than it seems. For example, building on or near a slope can put crews and equipment at serious risk. They could also put the general public in danger.
Even if they appear to be solid, hills and inclines can shift in an instant, due to the enormous pressure from heavy machinery. In addition, excavation and digging can alter the conditions of the area to an extreme degree.
These forces combined can have a significant impact on the stability of the soil. If it degrades beyond a certain point, landslides are almost inevitable.
Even if no one is hurt, however, these failures can also cause costly delays and necessitate extensive cleanup efforts. Contractors must take extreme caution when working around slopes.
Understanding the most common warning signs and stabilization techniques is critical to ensure a safe and productive worksite for all involved.
Identifying Warning Signs of Slopes
Construction teams must be vigilant when working near sloped areas. They need to watch for indications that ground failure may be imminent.
The most prominent sign is the appearance of cracks. Cracking in the earth or on the flooring of an existing structure should be taken as a serious warning that stability in the vicinity is deteriorating.
Learning Slope Stabilization Strategies
There are a number of techniques contractors can use to prevent soil from shifting. The conditions and scope of the work can help determine which approach makes the most sense for a job site.
Some of the most common methods used to stabilize slopes include:
1. Anchors and Netting
This approach involves wire mesh or netting, which is fastened to the side of a hill using metal rods connected to anchor plates. This holds soil and rocks in place during construction, preventing the gradual erosion that could lead to a catastrophic collapse over time.
If there is an excess of water underneath the soil, it can have a significant impact on a slope’s ability to hold its shape. It may be necessary to install a drainage system that allows water to flow away from the area.
However, this is highly specialized work and should only be attempted by a provider with specific experience.
3. Retaining Walls
These typically consist of precast concrete panels, wooden slats, or metal sheets. In most applications, the framework for these walls consists of heavy-duty steel piles. By installing them at the base of a hill, workers can hold the earth in place.
4. Soil Nails
These are almost exactly what they sound like - long metal rods pounded directly into the side of an incline. By providing additional stability, they can prevent the ground from moving or shifting under pressure. In some cases, helical piles are screwed into the earth instead.
5. Timber Mats
Heavy equipment exerts a lot of force on the ground. Unless the weight is dispersed, it can have a serious impact on the integrity of a slope. Timber construction mats can be a highly efficient solution because it prevents wheels and treads from making direct contact with the surface. By creating temporary roadways, contractors can successfully mitigate the effect their activities have on fragile hills and inclines.
No matter what project you’re working on, make sure you have solid footing. Adopting a sound slope stabilization strategy is critical for creating a safe and successful job site. Pay attention to the advice above, and you can avoid a potentially tragic situation.
Kathy Hopper is Director of Marketing at YAK ACCESS, which encompasses YAK MAT, NEW SOUTH, and BluRoc. Hopper, who has been with the company for more than three years, is responsible for the strategic development and implementation of upstream and downstream marketing efforts.