Eiffel 101: Steel Pile Installation Safety Guide

If there is a soft layer of soil at the surface of a construction site, or if an exceptionally heavy building is being built, the soil will not be able to support the weight of a new structure. Because of this, foundation piling must be used. The purpose of foundation piling is to transfer the weight of a structure from the soil’s surface to the stronger soil or rock below. This is achieved through the use of steel piles, which are drilled or driven into the ground.

Foundation Equpment

The Four Types of Steel Pile

Sheet Pile

Sheet piles are blocks of sheet material with interlocking edges that are driven into the ground to create earth retention systems and to support excavation projects. Unlike other types of pile, sheet pile acts more like a wall and is commonly used for retaining walls, land reclamation, car parking lots, basements, riverbank protection, seawalls and cofferdams. The interlocking system of sheet piling allows for easy positioning and driving of the piles as well as creating a close fitting joint that can be brushed with sealant to be made watertight.

Pipe Pile

Steel pipe pile is used to create a strong foundation for large, heavy structures such as buildings, bridges and roads. As the name suggests, the piles are made of steel pipe that’s driven or drilled deep into the ground in order to help distribute the weight of a structure down to the stronger soil or rock below. Pipe piles range in size from several inches to several feet in diameter, and they can be connected to create a pile that is hundreds of feet in length.


H-pile is similar to pipe pile in function, but differ from pipe pile in shape. H-piles are structural beams that are dimensionally square, with the same thickness in the flange and web. When compared to other types of pile, the H-pile beam design provides better weight distribution over a wider area and can support larger and heavier structures, such as tall buildings and bridges.

Wide Flange Beams

Wide flange beams include a central web that connects two parallel end units known as “flanges.” Contrary to h-pile beams, wide flange beams are not dimensionally square though they have a similar shape. W-beams range in flange size from less than 8” to 36”. Wide flange beams have high loadbearing capacity while also being light in weight, which is what makes them a popular choice in construction and foundation projects.

Steps for Safe Pile Installation

Here are a few essential steps to complete pile installation safely.

  • Only allow workers who are trained on the specific hazards of the operation to enter the work area where pile driving operations are occurring.

  • Do not allow anyone to stand under the outrigger, hammer or pile. Essential employees should stand to the sides or the rear of the leads during installation of the pile, while nonessential workers remain out of the fall zone.

  • Guide the top piles under the hammer from the ground whenever possible so that no one has to climb the leads to set the pile under the hammer.

  • Alert all employees of the pile hoisting operations before they begin.

  • Remove all foreign material such as frozen earth or tack-welded steel from the piles before being spotted for driving.

  • Hoist the piles in a manner that prevents accidental detachment from the hoisting equipment’s rigging.

  • Whenever diesel hammers are being fueled, check the oil reservoir and refill as necessary. Grease all fittings on all pile driving hammers at least once per shift (or as recommended by the hammer manufacturer).

  • Only allow one designated person to signal to the pile driving rig operator, except in an emergency.

  • When setting up over a pile location, steady the leads by hand. When the signal is given, the leads will be dropped so they stab into the ground.

  • No one should move under the hammer, leads, or pile as they are suspended in the air, or during driving of the pile, except when momentarily positioning leads over pile hub or inserting or removing pile gates.

  • Shut down the pile hammer when removing the rigging from the pile being driven and or removing the alignment gates at the bottom of the leads.

  • Check for pile plumbness as the pile is being driven. Stop the driving and replumb the pile if necessary, before the pile is driven too deeply.

  • Draw foot marks on the pile (as needed) so the length of the driving can be determined.

  • Use caution when rolling or turning piles to avoid injury.

Foundation Equipment for Sale

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