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What to Look for in Stabilization Pads on Cranes

What to Look for in Stabilization Pads on Cranes

We have talked at length before about crane safety and, most importantly, about ensuring cranes are stable when on-site. Work areas, whether they are residential, commercial, or industrial, are dangerous places to work when heavy equipment is in use. Cranes especially add in another layer of concern when needed for projects. 

Stabilization of cranes is key to a safe and efficient worksite.  The leading causes of injury and death during crane operations are electrocution or blunt force trauma from being hit or crushed with loads. The third direct cause is from cranes tipping over. The risk for all three categories increases when a crane hasn’t been appropriately stabilized.


What to Look for in Stabilization Pads on Cranes

First things first, cranes should sit on firm ground that has been graded and drained for stability. While outriggers add significant balance, they cannot make up for overly rough or unstable terrain underneath the crane. An unstable setting may cause a crane to tip over.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to the type and condition of the outrigger pad and crane pad being utilized for your project.

1. How Outriggers Work and Why Pads Matter

Outrigger stability systems are crucial to preventing tipping or unexpected movement during crane operation by expanding the footprint of the crane. These outriggers extend to either side and have a leg down that touches the ground below. 

The point where the outrigger contacts the ground is where you find crane pads, and across many worksites, you will find an additional pad added underneath, the outrigger pad.  

They act as feet at the end of the outrigger that allows all of the downward pressure to disperse out over a greater area than what a single direct contact point would. If the outriggers aren’t appropriately extended, the site is not graded and stabilized correctly, or the crane and outrigger pads are missized, stability can be at risk.

Outrigger pads that are smaller than needed put too much pressure on one spot and can cause the ground to cave or shift. At the same time, improper crane pad materials may crack or break, leading to the same issue. 

2. Selecting Stabilization Pads

Crane pads for outriggers come in a variety of specifications. They will have different attachment points, sizes, and materials, which can make selecting the right one a little tricky. The good news is that crane manufacturers will recommend compatible crane pads for their range of models. 

From there, selecting the size and material that best fits your work site and expected lifts is a more straightforward task. The most popular crane pads are single-cast attachments made out of durable metals like steel or aluminum-magnesium composites. You want something strong and durable, but also that you can also swap out relatively quickly as project conditions change.

Outrigger pads cover a larger surface area and are designed to be placed under the crane pad and moved around frequently. Materials, therefore, are a little more lightweight and come in a much wider variety of sizes (both surface area and thickness). You can still find these made of metal, but wood, plastic, and composites are also popular.

Just like you need to calculate expected lift weights before selecting the crane and while creating lift plans, you will need to have that data on hand when looking at crane pads. When choosing the material for stabilization pads, a significant factor is how much weight you expect they will need to help balance.

You need to not only take into account the weight lifted but the ground conditions as well. The softer the site the crane will be placed on, the larger your crane and outrigger pads will need to be to spread out loads safely. For example, firm clay can only support 43 psi, while if you are working on a site where you can set up on the concrete, the ground can take up to 1000psi.

3. Preparing the Site

Before operating a crane onsite, you need to look at the area where it will be working. OSHA standards for crane operation lay out numerous hazards to look out for and what precautions to take. Site issues can be part of the site’s terrain or manufactured hazards. Your site supervisor should ensure the area for the crane is prepared correctly for delivery, assembly, and operation.

Selecting the proper stabilization pads is only the first step. Ensure your outrigging and crane is stable by checking the following:

  • Outriggers are extended in accordance with the manufacturer's specifications.
  • Support materials have been placed under the crane and outriggers to prevent sinking during lifts.
  • The ground has not been compromised by weather or ongoing construction.
  • Crane maintenance is checked regularly and repaired when needed.

When utilizing a crane, make sure to have a site supervisor or other designated qualified worker inspect the crane and site conditions regularly (read our article here for more info on that). Job sites can change rapidly, so ensure that no new hazards have entered the crane’s work area. These hazards might range from newly placed power lines to a shift in grading due to weather.

The Right Crane for the Job

No matter the job, using the right tool makes all the difference. Make sure you select a crane that fits your job site requirements for the safest and most effortless experience. 

Serving the Carolinas for over 40 years, Parker’s Crane Service can help you get equipped with the right crane for the job. With a fleet of well-maintained hydraulic truck cranes, we offer not only the best equipment but can help with site installation, maintenance, and operation as well. Our crew is OSHA and MSHA-compliant to ensure your site and crew safety.

Browse our list of available cranes to see if we have the right crane for your job. And contact our team to discuss any services or equipment we can help you select for your project.