June 11, 2018
Oxford Plastics has been collaborating with the utilities and utility contractors for years. They seek to provide solutions to the recurring problems inherent within the industry – slow & expensive trench cover installations, health & safety liability, and several other issues regarding steel plates.
And then there’s the ‘compliance issues’ with city, state, and federal authorities that should be adhered to. Beyond safety issues, not being in compliance, can add considerable cost to a contractor.
David Balkan, CEO of Joseph L Balkan Sewer & Water Main Specialists, a NYC contractor, claims “We avoided a $1200 fine, in minutes”, when using the Oxford trench cover. Balkan received notice from NYCDOT, regarding a 28” deep washout at the edge of a roadway where Balkan had worked. If they didn’t respond within 3 hours, there would be a $1200 fine.
Balkan recalls, “there was virtually no time to fill the hole, tamp, and blacktop with specialized equipment, within 3 hours. However, one employee, picking up the Oxford trench cover, placing it in his vehicle, delivering it & putting it in place, took under an hour. The site was safe, there was no summons issued, and no more sinking through the very heavy rains overnight. Win, win, win.”
Balkan was seeking an alternative to steel plates, frustrated with the handling & placing dangers. Balkan was averaging 1-2 injuries a year from injuries related to their use. A public utility recommended the Oxford alternatives. “Safety is #1”, and now, “every one of our crews use Oxford covers every single day”. Utilizing compliant Oxford covers, Balkan is happy to report, “when on the phone with the DOT, I now receive acknowledgement for being in compliance”. Balkan’s operation needs to be ready 24/7 to deal with issues. Using Oxford covers, “they’ve transformed our operation.” “Oxford has helped us be safer, more efficient, and more profitable.”
10 years ago, in the UK, London was seeking a product that would allow trenches to be covered on their roadways, in compliance, and reduce traffic delays. Working with National Grid UK, Oxford Plastics developed the first LowPro 15-05 composite road plates.
Continuing to collaborate with the utilities and contractors within the US, Oxford Plastics has developed a series of road plates and trench covers designed to address various load rating requirements and applications.
The LowPro 15-05 & LowPro 23-05 are modular systems with interlocking sections, that can be installed by two crew members. This eliminates the need for specialized equipment, and the cost & time required to do so. The modular sections can be put into the back of a crew truck, and installed in minutes. These road plates are HS20-44 load rated.
The difference between the LowPro 15-05 and the Low Pro 23-05 is the trench width they are rated for, covering 27” wide and 36” wide trenches, respectively, when a load rating of up to the weight of a semi-truck or crane is warranted (up to 97,000 lbs). They are both rated to cover wider trenches, when the load requirement is reduced. The 23-05 can also be used for sidewalk work, safely covering up to a 4’ wide trench. As the road plates are modular, you can cover any length of trench by interlocking more sections.
Oxford composite road plates are especially popular with utility companies working on gas, water, electricity and fiber-optic services. Contractors are finding Oxford products much easier and safer to lift into place than heavy steel plates – and much more stable and durable than plywood.
Mike Hevey, PE, of JH Lynch Construction disclosed, “I came across Oxford’s composite road plates in an article in a trade publication and thought they would be a great fit for a National Grid project, where we were burying power lines. The project required trenching across driveways and cross streets in a residential development. Because Oxford’s plates can be installed with two men, we were able to run smaller machines. Combining that, with how much quicker and safer Oxford plates are to set, we ended up with huge cost savings.”
And now with the most recent availability of EasiLift, a set of 2 lifting handles that lock into the LowPro 23-05, installation of the 23-05 is easier & more ergonomic.
In varying parts of the US, requirements for a trench cover differ. For safety reasons, in most states, ramping to a trench cover is required, often done with cold patch. The Oxford road plates and several of their trench covers have a chamfered Flexi-Edge, eliminating the need to ramp with cold patch. In urban areas, women in high heels especially appreciate this, not ruining their shoes and tracking asphalt.
Neighborhoods appreciate the noise reduction from Oxford’s pliable Flexi-Edge. When vehicles are traversing steel plates, noise echoes within the streets. The Flexi-Edge can reduce this soundtrack of urban noise, eliminating complaints. Oxford’s patented Flexi-Edge grip technology also greatly reduces unwanted movement. Additionally, underside pins within the road plate drop into the trench when installed, to prevent lateral movement.
In most states, to reduce slips & trips, an anti-skid surface is required. Some require the cover be painted or taped yellow for safety.
Dan Buckley, Sr.VP of Anchor Construction & NUCA Chairman-Elect, remarked: “the Oxford products have the hi-visibility yellow and the anti-skid surface molded within the cover, eliminating the need to reapply anti-skid paint or tape”. This usually is an ongoing maintenance cost for other covers.
Buckley has been using Oxford trench covers for the past few years in the DC area. “When addressing safety, traffic, & DOT requirements, the Oxford covers solve almost every one of my problems.” “Safety is #1. #2 is the increased production we get from these plates. Every day, each work crew is gaining 45 min, to an hour and 15 minutes, by using Oxford products.” “Pure money.”
Buckley, who uses the range of Oxford trench plates and covers, noted the gas probe hole within each plate allows monitoring the gas within the trench. Buckley endorses the Oxford LowPro 15-10 cover “ideal for driveway and sidewalk work.”
The Oxford LowPro 15-10 is particularly regarded within the gas industry. The all plastic design provides added safety, creating no sparks. The provision of holes within the cover, allow any gas in the trench to escape freely.
Tony Raposo, owner of William Anthony Excavating in RI, has been using Oxford’s covers for about 2 years. He remarks they are a “better design”, provide “better function”, “quicker”, “safer”, and are “outstanding”. Raposo finds the “cost savings is significant.”
Finally one of our younger contractors are also noticing the benefits of these innovative covers. David Skurka, 24, of Skurka Construction, has been involved in the family business for all his life, touted the highlights of using Oxford covers, but bottom line, recognizes they provide “a better profit margin at the end”.