Stay Safe: Asphalt Paving Safety Checklist
The U.S. produces over 350 million tons of asphalt pavement every year. Millions of workers use the substance daily to pave and repair our millions of miles of roads in this country.
Are these workers safe? Is asphalt toxic? Working with asphalt does present certain dangers and requires significant safety precautions.
Consider this checklist as your guide to appropriate asphalt paving safety measures.
Know the Hazards: Is Asphalt Toxic?
Asphalt is a substance derived from crude oil. Most often used for paving roads, runways, and parking lots, asphalt also has uses in the roofing industry. When asphalt becomes heated during construction, it releases vapors and fumes that contain hazardous chemicals.
Benzo, a pyrene, bitumen, and other polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are released during the asphalt heating process. These chemicals are known carcinogens, and there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that inhaling them leads to an increased risk of lung cancer.
Most commonly, workers exposed to asphalt fumes experience physical symptoms such as:
- Eye irritation
- Respiratory issues
Understanding there is a health risk when working with this substance means taking the proper precautions to ensure asphalt paving safety.
Proper Personal Protective Equipment
While there are no specific OSHA requirements for asphalt fumes, OSHA does have standards for personal protective equipment in the construction industry. The employer’s responsibility is to assess the risk and advise employees on appropriate personal protective equipment.
Some recommended items are:
- Chemical goggles
- Loose clothing with closed collars and cuffed wrists
- Thermally insulated gloves
- Boots at least six inches high with no openings
- Barrier creams or lotions on the skin
PPE is necessary for asphalt fumes respiratory protection and prevents the absorption of harmful chemicals in the skin.
Consider immediate attention if a worker is experiencing adverse effects from exposure to asphalt fumes or if they have made direct contact with it on the skin.
When a worker shows signs of respiratory distress:
- Move them to fresh air
- Provide oxygen for labored breathing
- Allow examination by a physician
If a worker has had physical contact with hot asphalt:
- Apply cold water or ice to burns
- Do not remove asphalt from the skin
- Allow examination by a physician
Acting swiftly and appropriately is vital to mitigate future health problems related to asphalt exposure.
Training and Site Safety
Employers should train workers handling this substance about the hazards of working with it and safe work procedures. Specific information provided to employees about solvents, chemical ingredients, recommended PPE, fire, and emergency cleanup procedures improve site safety.
Consider hiring an expert in worksite and occupational safety to assess the conditions of your workplace and complete a full evaluation and job safety analysis.
Don’t Take Chances with Toxic Asphalt
Is asphalt toxic? The answer is yes; it has the potential to be toxic when heated. Workers must be aware of the risks, and employers must work to provide training and equipment to protect them.
Ensure your worksite does not cause an asphalt environmental hazard or human health hazard. Contact Atlantic Environmental today to assess your workplace regarding OSHA requirements as they pertain to asphalt safety and guide you on the training and protection your workers need. Enjoy peace of mind knowing you’re protecting workers and providing the utmost workplace safety.
Asphalt Paving Safety Assessment, Training and Protection
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