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Steel Road Plates vs GRP (Plastic) Road Plates
Road plates are protective covers which seal off potentially dangerous holes and excavations on a building site or for roadworks. They are strong enough to allow traffic and pedestrians to move freely over them.
Road plates are manufactured from two types of material, steel or glass-reinforced plastic (GRP). Though both are sturdy and can be used in a variety of applications, there are some key differences between them which are important to consider when choosing which fits best with your requirements.
Suitable for excavation safety and both vehicle and pedestrian use, steel road plates are designed with heavy-duty durability on busy roads in mind. They allow traffic to continue to flow while works are ongoing. They are often used as a solution to cover excavations so roads can temporarily return to service
GRP road plates are part of a modular composite system. Each GRP road plate links together to cover holes or excavation work on site. At 44kg, each section is lighter and easier to handle than steel.
Below are some key differences between steel and GRP road plates and their advantages and disadvantages.
The main difference between the two types of road plate is weight. Steel road plates are heavier and can therefore take a bigger load. This means they are more suitable for applications with heavy plant equipment and vehicles.
GRP road plates are a lightweight alternative and more cost effective but are only suitable for loads up to 44 tonnes (depending on the site). The advantage to GRP road plates is that they don’t require cranes or forklifts to move and install, whereas steel road plates do.
The weights of steel road plates start from around 150kg and go up to 420kg for the heaviest standard-sized plates, though bespoke sizes are available.
GRP road plates are lighter and easier to handle but still long-lasting. Each section weighs 44kg and they’re tested to a vehicle weight of 44 tonnes over a 700mm trench.
Steel road plates come in three standard sizes, 1220mm x 1220mm (4ft x 4ft), 1830mm x 1220mm (6ft x 4ft) and 2440 mm x 1220mm (8ft x 4ft). They have a thickness of either ½ inch or ¾ inch.
GRP road plates form a modular system of pieces which link together. Each section is 1500mm x 50mm.
Bespoke sizes are available if the standard size doesn’t fit the job at hand.
Steel plates can be manufactured with a plain or anti-skid finish and are available in more than 20 colours. They can also have a range of protective paint finishes which offer additional protection, as well as spray painted logo customisations.
GRP road plates are yellow and black for high visibility. This makes them obvious to vehicles and pedestrians, to avoid slips and trips or vehicle damage.
For sites with mud or concern about rainfall, anti-skid, also known as non-slip, road plates have a surface with more grip and friction to decrease the chance of people or vehicles slipping.
Steel road plates can be manufactured with an anti-skid finish if required. This is a Rocbinda high friction, skid resistant surfacing system to prevent slippage
GRP road plates have an integrated anti-skid surface.
Steel road plates need to be moved into place with the mechanical assistance of a forklift or crane because of their heavy weight. Once they are on the ground they can be secured by using anchorage points at each corner.
Installation is quicker and easier with GRP road plates as they do not require specialist lifting equipment and can be installed in minutes with a two-person lift. The end sections are equipped with anchor holes so the road plates can be secured to the road. Connectors lock the road plates together securely.
Steel road plates create more noise than GRP road plates. If you are in a residential area where noise needs to be kept to a minimum, it is advisable to choose GRP road plates where possible. They have a flexible edge which helps to reduce unwanted noise further.
Though steel road plates are heavier, steel can degrade or warp over time. Plastic road plates don’t have this problem, so tend to keep their structure for longer. However, as road plates are mostly a temporary solution, long-term durability is not the most important factor when selecting which material is most suitable for your site.
When considering which road plate is right for your needs, it’s important to always consult a structural engineer. They can ensure your road plates comply with regulations and meet the stability requirements of your site. If you need further advice or information, SafeSite Facilities can help.
SafeSite Facilities offers a hire or buy service for its road plates, with delivery anywhere across the UK. Cost will vary depending on the needs of the site or excavation, so please contact our expert team for a no-obligation quote.
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