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What is a Pile Driver?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 August 2016
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A pile driver is a piece of construction equipment used to install piles, which are a crucial part of the foundation of large structures. Construction piles take the form of strong support columns or beams that are driven into the earth using a pile driver to form the core strength of a structure. The weight of the structure is distributed across the piles to ensure that it will be stable and strong, and in some cases multiple piles may be embedded in a single concrete pad to further distribute the weight for increased stability.

Not all construction projects use piling for support; they are considered to be a part of a deep foundation. A deep foundation is used for very large structures, structures being built on poor soils, and other applications that engineers may recommend. In addition, most marine construction involves pilings, which can be driven through the muck on the water bed into strong soil or bedrock. Piles for any type of construction can be made from steel, timber, or concrete, as long as they are stable, sturdy, and strong.

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For centuries, builders have used some form of a pile driver to facilitate the construction of pilings. The essential pile driver system consists of a piece of weighted material which is hauled to great height on a pulley system. Guide rods are also part of the pile driver, to ensure that the weighted block does not waver or get off center. A piling is positioned below the pile driver, which is dropped onto it to force it into the ground. Usually, a piling will take many hits with a pile driver before it is firmly installed and the construction crew can move on to the next one.

Several safety considerations need to be taken into account when using a pile driver. The first is the noise, which can be considerable. Crews working around a pile driver should wear ear protection and communicate using radios or hand signals. The second is the potential for serious injury. Workers should be cleared from the work area below the pile driver when it is in operation, and pile driver operators should be trained in safety techniques so that they can operate the equipment safely. Like all construction equipment, a pile driver should be well maintained to avoid equipment failure, which may lead to injury or delays in construction.

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