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The Importance of Ground Protection on Job Sites

 Updated on: May 7th, 2021

The Importance of Ground Protection on Job Sites
Ground mat protecting the soil

Perhaps you operate a renovation, construction, landscaping, tree care or similar company that takes on multiple outdoor projects a year. Up until this point you’ve been using plywood for your ground protection and replacing boards periodically when they get too waterlogged, too cracked, or too ragged to be useful. What if there’s a better way? Consider making the switch from plywood to heavy duty polyethylene mats instead. Although they are carry a larger up-front cost, they are a better long-term investment for many reasons.

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They are Better for Your Equipment and Workers

Mats have an enormous range of features that plywood doesn’t have because they are engineered specifically for the purpose of ground protection on job sites. Some of the engineered features can include:

Chevron and Diamond PLate

Non-Slip Traction Surface

Plywood boards get slippery when wet, and can move under equipment when it turns. On the other hand, mats have a non-slip traction surface with designs such as chevron or diamond plate.

Ability to Gang

Ability to Gang

Certain brands on mat come with ganging connectors to create paths that will stay firmly in place even while turning or rotating in bobcats or skid loaders.



For set-up and take-down, it’s a lot easier to move a mat if it has a rope or cut-out handhold. With mats, there is also no risk of wood splinters or rogue nails when moving them by hand.

Chemical Inertia

Chemical Inertia

The mats won’t absorb oil, chemical spills and other fluids so there is no risk of cross-contamination. They can also be thoroughly cleaned if needed, unlike porous plywood.



Use them in any weather condition! Plywood can soak up about 50 pounds when it gets waterlogged, making it even more difficult to move and transport after the job is finished. Mats will stay a consistent weight regardless of conditions, and won’t be affected by snow, ice, or rain.

Load-Bearing Weight

Load-Bearing Weight

Plywood strength varies from sheet to sheet, and they are prone to cracking under the weight of heavier machinery. Mats are specifically rated to handle heavier weights, and each one will come will a weight rating.



Plywood bends for no man, and job sites are rarely level. Mats are more flexible, and they can be used on slopes and inclines with no fear of cracking.

They are a Better Long-Term Investment

Mats are an expensive up-front cost, and it’s understandable to reach for the more affordable option year after year. In the long-term, mats truly are the best




$15 Plywood

12 pieces replaced 4 times per year

$200 Reusable Mat

No need for replacement

They cost less per use after multiple years

To simplify the impact of the investment, if you bought one $300 mat and it lasted 50 jobs over the course of 10 years, that would equal about $6 per job. With plywood, if you bought one $40 board and it lasted two jobs before you replaced it, then by the end of ten years you would have spent $400, which is about $8 per job. Apply that concept with the costs and job quantity that’s relevant to you, and note that after a certain number of years, mats are clearly the smarter investment because they don’t need to be replaced anywhere near as frequently as plywood.

They save time

Because of their consistent weight rating, you’ll be able to drive heavier wheeled equipment with confidence instead of transferring your load to smaller containers or tracked bobcats. You’ll be making less trips and doing more of the work that brings in money.

They are Better for the Environment and Customer Satisfaction

They help the environment recover quicker

By leaving a smaller mark on the landscape after your job is complete, you will not only be helping the environment recover quicker, but also leaving your customer impressed at both your environmental conscientiousness and professionalism. Not using ground protection on job site with industrial equipment and heavy machinery can be disastrous on soft soil, particularly in residential areas. Wheels and tracks can get stuck, rut the ground, and compact the earth down which makes it harder for soil to drain and for roots to get air and water. In swamps and marshlands, this destruction is particularly devastating and can take years for the land to bounce back.

They are recyclable

Plywood is better than no protection at all, however as we’ve seen mats are best. Most mats are made from recycled materials, and are recyclable themselves at the end of their life span. Because they can’t get waterlogged, they work really well in swampy, muddy areas to protect the ground from deep equipment imprints by displacing the weight of heavy machinery.

They don’t absorb as much heat

One unfortunate side effect of placing anything on grass or greenery is that the sun’s heat absorbed by the ground protection can damage the vegetation beneath. Plywood can start killing grass in about three days unless it’s moved and repositioned, which takes time away from the job at hand. Opaque or clear-colored mats have been developed as a way to protect lawns as they won’t absorb as much heat as plywood, and they can be left in place for multiple days without needing to be repositioned.

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