When it comes to the stabilisation of heavy equipment, the use of timber blocks presents a worrying series of inefficiencies and safety risks. Put simply: timber is unpredictable, unsafe and unnecessary.

Yet remarkably timber is still widely used as a propping product across the mining, agriculture, construction and engineering sectors. For various reasons, industry has so far failed to properly educate itself on this dangerous practice.

So what exactly are the downsides to timber as an industrial blocking and cribbing tool?

Firstly, timber is not a tool

While dunnage and blocks made of timber have traditionally been used for blocking and cribbing in industrial applications, these products are not engineered as fit-for-purpose tools for supporting machinery and equipment when carrying out assembly, repairs and maintenance tasks.

“The problem is that when people take random pieces of timber to use as support devices, they don’t actually know anything about the species or state of the timber. It might be a piece of pine,” says Tony Brooks from Cribbing & Matting Co. “Timber is not a tool. Only quality manufactured cribbing blocks and specially designed metal stands can be recognised as purpose-built tools for stabilising heavy equipment.”

The hidden dangers of timber

The structural integrity of timber – or lack of it – often cannot be identified until it’s too late. “A block may be perfect the day you buy it, but the danger comes as it ages and gets exposed to certain elements. Timber in moist conditions will absorb water and become structurally unsound, while timber exposed to excessive heat becomes brittle,” says Brooks. “When wood creaks, for example, it is the sound of internal grain ruptures like splits and cracks rubbing together. At this stage the damage has already occurred, and the creaking sound is a warning.”

When the load-bearing effectiveness is compromised, timber can catastrophically fail. “Timber in a working environment can be exposed to chemicals, solvents, fuels and other contaminants, so if you get a splinter it might be contaminated by a foreign body object, which has the potential to make any injury significantly worse,” says Brooks.

A crate filled with risk

Brooks recently visited a well-known machinery service provider, where he discovered a dirty stockpile area and a storage crate filled with different-sized timber blocks, covered in what appeared to be grease and oil. Scribbled on the crate was a label stating that the contents were “not free firewood”.

timber-in-basketExternal damage such as splits, localised compression dents, and missing edges where sections had broken away characterised the overall poor condition of the timber.

With years of experience in cribbing and blocking, Brooks identified this scene as evidence of the lack of understanding that continues to plague the industry.

“Clearly the label on the crate was to warn would-be pilferers that this timber had a workshop purpose,” says Brooks. “The best technology is grossly underutilised. Once people gain an appreciation for the flexible alternatives, I believe the take-up will undoubtedly rise.”

The engineered alternative

What makes a plastic engineered cribbing block superior to timber? “It has a known working load limit, it has a specific chemical composition that is constantly repeated, it has a quality manufacturing process that ensures all products are the same – plus or minus five per cent – and it possesses uniform load-bearing capacity across the entire block.”

For more information, please contact Mr Tony Brooks, Managing Director, Cribbing and Matting Co, Unit 9, 12 Abbott Road, Seven Hills, NSW 2147, ph 61 2 9674 7428, fax 61 – 2 9674 2724 tony.b@cribandmatco.com.au www.cribandmatco.com.au

 

 

Damaged Timber

As part of my role with Cribbing and Matting Co, I often get the opportunity to visit many industrial and mining companies all over Australia.

While many of these successful companies are safety focused and have embraced the latest safety technologies, there is still a huge room for improvement.

Instead of using fit-for-purpose jacking, cribbing and blocking tools for supporting heavy loads, I’m frustrated to see companies still putting their workers at risk by using inefficient and dangerous random pieces of timber.

The fact is, timber is not a support tool.

While dunnage and blocks made of timber have traditionally been used for jacking, cribbing and blocking in industrial applications, these products are not engineered as fit-for-purpose tools for supporting machinery and equipment when carrying out assembly, repairs and maintenance tasks.

Only quality manufactured cribbing blocks and specially designed metal stands can be recognised as purpose-built tools for stabilising heavy equipment.

The problem is, when people take random pieces of timber to use as support devices, they don’t actually know anything about the species or state of the timber. It might be just a piece of pine for all the worker knows.

The structural integrity of timber, or lack of it, often cannot be identified until it’s too late.

A block may be perfect the day you buy it, but the danger comes as it ages and gets exposed to certain elements.

Timber in moist conditions will absorb water and become structurally unsound, while timber exposed to excessive heat becomes brittle.

When wood creaks, for example, it is the sound of internal grain ruptures like splits and cracks rubbing together. At this stage the damage has already occurred, and the creaking sound is a warning.

When the load-bearing effectiveness is compromised, timber can catastrophically fail.

As well, timber in a working environment can be exposed to chemicals, solvents, fuels and other contaminants, so if a worker does get a splinter it might easily be contaminated by a foreign body object, which has the potential to make any injury significantly worse.

My point is, there are plastic engineered cribbing blocks available on the market, which are far superior to timber.

For example, each of our Dura Crib plastic engineered cribbing blocks possesses a uniform load-bearing capacity across the entire block. This is due to blocks having a specific chemical composition that is constantly repeated, and a quality manufacturing process that ensures all products are the same, plus or minus five per cent.

I do appreciate that industry is slowly recognising the benefits of plastic engineered cribbing blocks, but that process is not fast enough. We still have too many workers being killed or injured in our workplaces needlessly.

 

damaged-block

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Timber Cribbing block showing typical splitting and cracking. Is this safe to use?

Unlike timber, all dura crib and dura stat cribbing blocks are and engineered fit for purposed cribbing, blocking and stabilisation tools. They are made using strict production and quality control processes with a known repeatable formula ensuring consistent end product performance and operation characteristics. Being engineered tools made from recycled high density polyethylene all dura crib and dura stat blocks are non-absorbent and will not split, splinter or rot like timber.

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Dura Crib DCHDC6730LB Heavy Duty Cribbing Block. Engineered support block.

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Since its launch almost 3 years ago the dura crib “The Slab” cribbing block is fast becoming the tool of choice of some of the world’s largest mining equipment manufacturers and operators. Tested under the guidance of AS 1170 and AS2498 benchmarks the working load limit The Slab at 60.8kg/cm2 and a maximum overall block load capacity of 110,000kg, so no load is too heavy for this block to support. Weighing in a 22.7kg with measurements of160mm x 300mm x 600mm make The Slab an excellent workshop and in the field blocking tool. Unique diamond patterned surface provides a positive locking feature when blocks are used in stacks. Manufactured from recycled high density polyethylene helps save on waste materials becoming landfill and therefore gets a big environmental tick. For more information on this versatile cribbing block visit
https://www.cribandmatco.com.au/plastic-cribbing-block/slab-super-crib-dcsc6123lb-dcsc61224lb/

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