Asphalt Training Guide
(Taken from the "Tailgate Meetings that Work : A Guide
to Effective Construction Safety Training" series)
Robin Baker, Robert
Downey, Mary Ruth Gross, Charles Reiter
Labor Occupational Health Program
(LOHP) School of Public Health,
University of California, Berkeley Ca.
talks were developed for use under California OSHA regulations. The
complete set is available from the Labor Occupational Health Program
at UC Berkeley. For ordering information, visit the website (www.lohp.org)
The American Conference of Government Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH)
has adapted these talks to apply to federal OSHA regulations. To contact
ACGIH, visit its web site (www.acgih.org).
Before you begin
- Does this topic
relate to the work the crew is doing? If not, choose another topic.
- Has the crew
completed basic Hazard Communication training? It will help them
understand this topic.
- Did you read
this Training Guide and fill in the blanks where the appears?
(To find the information you need, look over the Safety Walkaround Checklist
for this topic.)
- Did you bring
labeled containers and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) for a few
of the adhesive and resin products used on the site?
sense tells you that work with hot asphalt can cause burns. Molten paving
asphalt is usually between 250° and 325° F. Roofing asphalt may
be hotter than 450°.
Burns arnt the only hazard. When asphalt is heated, it may produce
dangerous gases, vapors, and fumes. One example is hydrogen sulfide gas,
which may build up when hot asphalt is stored in unventilated containers.
Too much hydrogen sulfide gas can knock you out or kill you. The solvents,
binders, and other chemicals used in asphalt can also be very hazardous.
Some give off toxic vapors; some can catch fire or explode.
You or a crew member may want to add a personal story about asphalt.
with the crew where asphalt is used at this particular job site:
THE CREW THESE QUESTIONS:
After each question,
give the crew time to suggest possible answers. Use the information
following each question to add points that no one mentions.
1. What is asphalt?
Is it the same as coal tar?
- Asphalt is a
black, sticky material that comes from crude oil. Its used in
paving, roofing, waterproofing, and some glues.
- People often
confuse asphalt with coal tar or pitch. But
since tar and pitch come from coal, not oil, they are different materials
and have different hazards.
2. What are some
ways that asphalt can harm you?
- Fire and explosion:
Some asphalt products are highly flammable.
- Skin and eye
contact: Hot asphalt can cause burns. Some people also get
allergic skin reactions and rashes from contact with asphalt.
You may get a condition similar to acne, or you may get skin spots.
These can get worse if you work in bright sunlight or ultraviolet light
(for example, when welding). Also, your eyes can get irritated from
asphalt fumes, or if you touch your eyes with asphalt on your hands.
When asphalt products are heated, their fumes can irritate your
nose, throat, or lungs. You may first notice a cough, scratchy throat,
or mucus. You can get bronchitis or emphysema if you inhale asphalt
Mixed with the asphalt fumes may be hydrogen sulfide, a very
toxic gas. Breathing too much can cause dizziness, convulsions, coma,
or death. Chemicals in asphalt products also produce vapors which
you may inhale. The effects depend on the particular chemical. Some
of these chemicals can damage the liver, kidneys, and nervous system
(including the brain).
3. What ingredients
in asphalt can cause these problems?
- Asphalt is originally
solid or semisolid. It is blended or cut with a solvent
to make it more liquid. Hazardous solvents may be used, like naphtha,
toluene, and xylene.
- Many other chemicals
are used in asphalt productsbinders, hardening agents, bonding
agents, crushed rock, and sand. For example, a product might contain:
a toxic chemical that causes nervous system damage.
and silica in the rock and sand. Their dusts can cause lung
- The composition
of asphalt products is changing. Today, some paving asphalt is mixed
with materials like resins and recycled rubber, which may add new hazards.
4. How can you
find out what chemicals are in a particular asphalt product, and what
their hazards might be?
- Check the label
(if available). Look for a list of ingredients or a safety warning.
- Read the Material
Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the product. MSDSs are required by
law. Theyll tell you the ingredients and possible health and safety
hazards. Everyone working on the site has a right to see MSDSs.
look at some MSDSs for asphalt products we use on this job.
Show the crew the sample MSDSs you brought to the meeting. Explain
(MSDSs are covered
in more detail during basic Hazard Communication training, which everyone
on the crew should already have completed.)
5. What are some
ways to work safely with asphalt?
- Use a safer
asphalt mix if possible. Rapid cure asphalt products
evaporate easier, so theyre more dangerous there are more
toxic vapors and more danger of fire.
- Avoid breathing
hazardous substances. Never stick your head in an asphalt tank or mixing
container. Never lean over a kettle. Stay upwind from asphalt if possible.
mixing and stirring operations. Stirring asphalt in an open kettle exposes
you to fumes, solvent vapors, and possible burns. Cover the kettle if
- Stop what
youre doing if you notice symptoms. Ask your foreman for advice.
- Keep asphalt
off your skin and out of your eyes. If you do get asphalt
in your eyes, flush with water for 15 minutes.
eat, drink, or smoke on the job. Anything you put in your mouth
could have been contaminated by asphalt. Wash up first.
6. What personal
protective equipment might you need if you work with asphalt?
- Thermally insulated
gloves to keep asphalt from burning or irritating your skin.
Cotton or leather gloves wont worksolvents may soak through
or a long sleeve shirt and long pants without cuffs. Keep your sleeves
rolled down and close your collar.
- Steel-toed safety
- A face shield,
not just safety glasses. Protect both your eyes and your face.
- A respirator.
If your exposure to fumes, gases, or vapors may be higher than Cal/OSHA
limits (check the MSDS), we must provide the right type of respirator,
make sure it fits, teach you how to use it, and give you a physical
to make sure youre able to wear it safely. A dust mask may not
be enough protection, especially in an enclosed area.
or___ will not require respirators on this job.
personal protective equipment (PPE) and respirators are available
and Respirators are covered in more detail in separate Training Guides.)
How do you prevent fires and explosions when working with asphalt products?
smoke around flammable vapors, and avoid heat and sparks. Dont
weld or braze an asphalt kettle or tank, even if its empty, until
you check for vapors. Also watch out for sparking power tools.
- Keep fire
extinguishers readily available, and make sure they are the right
type. Different fire extinguishers are needed for different kinds of
Most of the safety measures weve talked about are required by Cal/OSHA.
We have to take these precautionsits the law. For example,
Cal/OSHA says we must make sure no one on the site is exposed to more
than 5 milligrams of asphalt fumes per cubic meter of air, averaged
over an 8-hour shift. This is called the permissible exposure limit
(PEL) for asphalt. But there are much lower limits for hydrogen
sulfide gas and the hazardous solvents found in some asphalt products.
I have a Checklist of the Cal/OSHA regulations on asphalt. If youd
like to know more, see me after the meeting.
(Only if applicable.)
Besides the Cal/OSHA regulations, we have some additional company rules
about working with asphalt.
Do you have any
other concerns about asphalt? Do you see any problems on our job?
(Let the steward answer first, if there is one.)
What about other jobs youve worked on? Have you had any experience
with asphalt that might help us work safer on this job?
This is a time
to discuss all safety concerns, not just today's topic. Keep your notes
on this page before, during and after the safety meeting.
Are you aware
of any hazards from other crews? Point out any hazards other crews
are creating that this crew should know about. Tell the crew what you
intend to do about those hazards.
Do we have any
old business? Discuss past issues/problems. Report progress of
investigations and action taken.
Any new business?
Any accidents/near misses/complaints? Discuss accidents, near misses,
and complaints that have happened since the last safety meting. Also recognize
the safety contributions made by members of the crew.
we want to hear from you about any health and safety issues that come
up. If we don't know about problems, we can't take action to fix them.
To complete the
- Circulate Sign-Off
- Assign one
or more crew member(s) to help with next safety meeting.
- Refer action
items for follow-up. (Use the sample Hazard Report Form in the
Reference Section of this binder, or your companys own form.)
OF THOSE WHO ATTENDED THIS SAFETY MEETING
Meetings That Work : Collection
Published in June, 1994 by: Labor Occupational Health Program, School
of Public Health, 2515 Channing Way, University of California, Berkeley,
CA 94720. Phone: (510) 642-5507.
Permission is granted to duplicate these materials for non-profit educational
purposes, provided that copies are not offered for sale.
This paper appears in the eLCOSH website with the permission of the author
and/or copyright holder and may not be reproduced without their consent.
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