Hazards of Asphalt
October 14, 2019
Asphalt, a construction material derived from petroleum, is used in various applications such as paving, roofing, and siding. Heated asphalt is hazardous to workers and can cause various injuries and health effects. It is therefore important for those who work with asphalt to take safety precautions to reduce their exposure.
Asphalt Fumes and Explosions
Asphalt is a potentially dangerous material that can cause damage to the eyes, lungs, skin, and other parts of the body. Over 500,000 workers including construction workers and roofers are exposed each year, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). There are two main hazards associated with asphalt:
- Fumes – When heated asphalt is poured and applied, it generates toxic fumes. Those who are not wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) may suffer acute effects of exposure including headache, skin rashes and irritation, fatigue, reduced appetite, throat and eye irritation, and cough. Studies suggest that chronic exposure to asphalt fumes can cause asthma, bronchitis, and various types of cancer.
- Explosions – If ignited, hot asphalt can cause explosions. This can cause workers to suffer serious, even fatal, burns. Explosions can occur not only when asphalt is being applied but also where it is stored; asphalt storage tanks may explode due to incorrect temperatures or pressure, or inadequate venting.
Asphalt Worker Safety
OSHA has proposed a 5mg/m3 permissible exposure limit (PEL) for those working with asphalt, however a risk assessment by the administration reveals that even workers who are exposed to levels as low as 0.2 mg/m3 are at significant risk of lung cancer. Although there are currently no OSHA standards governing asphalt fumes, there are general requirements for working with harmful dusts, fogs, fumes, mists, gases, smokes, sprays, or vapors, including:
- Engineering control measures – To prevent occupational diseases caused by breathing asphalt fumes, OSHA recommends implementing engineering controls such as enclosure or confinement of the operation, general and local ventilation, and substitution of less toxic materials.
- Respiratory protection – Where engineering control measures are not feasible or inadequate, OSHA recommends providing workers with respirators, in accordance with employer-developed respiratory protection plans.
In addition, when working with hot asphalt workers should wear:
- Thermally insulated gloves
- Long sleeves and pants
- Safety boots
- Eye protection
Compensation for Injuries or Illnesses Caused by Asphalt Exposure at Work
Those who were injured or who developed an occupational illness due to asphalt exposure may be eligible for workers’ compensation. In Pennsylvania, workers generally have 120 days to report injuries to their employers and up to three years to file a workers’ compensation claim. Successful claimants may be able to recover various types of benefits including payment for medical expenses associated with their injuries and lost wages. Those who were harmed by asphalt fumes are advised to contact a local attorney to discuss their legal rights and options.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Help Asphalt Workers Collect Benefits
If you were injured or you were diagnosed with an illness due to asphalt exposure, contact a Philadelphia workers’ compensation lawyer at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. We can help you navigate the legal system and obtain the maximum amount of benefits to which you are entitled. Our experienced attorneys proudly represent all types of workers in Philadelphia and throughout Pennsylvania. For a free consultation, please complete our online contact form or call us at 888-PITT-LAW.
We handle work injury claims in Berks County, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County, and throughout Pennsylvania, including the communities of Abington, Ambler, Ardmore, Bala Cynwyd, Bensalem, Clifton Heights, Crum Lynne, Darby, Downingtown, Doylestown, Drexel Hill, Essington, Folcroft, Glenolden, Haverford, Havertown, Holmes, Kutztown, Lansdowne, Media, Merion Station, Morton, Narberth, Norristown, Norwood, Philadelphia, Prospect Park, Quakertown, Reading, Roxborough, Sharon Hill, Upper Darby, West Chester, and Wynnewood.