CONTROLLING ASPHALT FUME EXPOSURES DURING PAVING 500,000 WORKERS ARE EXPOSED TO ASPHALT FUMES WHILE PAVING ROADS, ROOFING, AND WATERPROOFING. MOLTEN ASPHALT GENERATES FUMES THAT CAN CAUSE SKIN DISEASES AND EYE AND RESPIRATORY TRACT IRRITATION. NIOSH LABORATORY STUDIES FOUND THAT FUMES FROM ASPHALT ROOFING MATERIALS HAVE POTENTIAL CANCER-CAUSING AND MUTAGENIC PROPERTIES.
ASPHALT FUMES: Over a half-million workers are exposed to fumes from asphalt, a petroleum product used extensively in road paving, roofing, siding, and concrete work. Health effects from exposure to asphalt fumes include headache, skin rash, sensitization, fatigue, reduced appetite, throat and eye irritation, cough, and skin cancer. There are currently no specific OSHA standards for asphalt fumes. Exposures to various chemical components of asphalt fumes are addressed in specific standards for the general and construction industries, such as personal protective equipment (PPE).
HAZARDS OF ASPHALT FUMES: Exposure to asphalt fumes can cause serious injury and permanent damage. Workers that may be exposed to asphalt fumes need to be aware of the potential hazards in their work environment. The following references aid in recognizing asphalt fume hazards in the workplace. When asphalt products are heated, vapors are released; as these vapors cool, they condense. By definition, the condensate is asphalt fume; however, because the components in the vapor do not condense all at once, workers are exposed not only to asphalt fumes, but also to vapors. When liquid asphalt products are used at ambient temperatures, workers are exposed to the liquid product and to vapors, but not to fumes. Fume particles may collide and stick together, making it difficult to characterize fume particle size.
HOW CAN I MINIMIZE MY EXPOSURE? The National Institute Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that possible health effects from exposures to asphalt, asphalt fumes and vapors, and asphalt-based paints be minimized,
- Preventing skin exposure
- Keeping the application temperature of heated asphalt as low as possible
- Using engineering controls and good work practices at all work sites to minimize worker exposure to asphalt fumes and asphalt-based paint aerosols
- Using appropriate respiratory protection for workers.
OSHA STANDARDS (PPE): 29 CFR1926.95(a) requires protective equipment to be worn “whenever it is necessary by reason of hazards….” Thus, where employees are exposed to the hazard of hot tar or asphalt getting on their skin and burning them while doing work on a road surface, it is appropriate that proper skin covering be worn to provide protection. While the standard does not specify any particular kind of protection, such as long pants, employers do have the responsibility to decide which workers are exposed to the hazard and thus require protective clothing and which methods should be used to comply with the standard.