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September 09, 2019
Working on any jobsite comes with dangers that should be navigated in a safe manner. Not every asphalt or seal coating job is on a safe parking lot, where risk of injury is lower; some jobs involve paving a new roadway right next to traffic, where you’re at the mercy of hundreds of drivers of all skills levels. Beyond the inherent risks of working alongside traffic, working with asphalt can also have negative health effects. The chemicals used in asphalt and seal coating can cause injury if you’re exposed to them without the proper safety equipment. Follow some basic rules to work safely around asphalt and to stay healthy.
Asphalt is heated to temperature of 250 to 325 degrees Fahrenheit for paving and up to 450 degrees for roofing, so burns are an obvious hazard to avoid. Try to minimize the amount of exposed skin; wearing coveralls will protect all your limbs. If you don’t have any, then wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Don’t cuff the pants or roll up the sleeves, and if you have a collar, keep it buttoned up. The solvents in asphalt can also soak through leather or cotton gloves, so wear thermal gloves, which will better protect you from the chemicals and heat.
When working with asphalt, do not eat, drink or smoke. Be sure anything you might eat later hasn’t been contaminated. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after work and before touching your eyes or face. In the event of a burn, wash the area with water for at least 15 minutes, and seek medical attention if the burn is more serious.
The fumes given off by asphalt can be hazardous. Hot asphalt also produces toxic gases such as hydrogen sulfide and other carcinogens. The fumes can cause a scratchy throat, coughing, and lung irritation at a minimum. Continuous exposure to the fumes can cause bronchitis, emphysema, and allergic reactions. To protect yourself from these dangers, try to avoid breathing the fumes. Never work with asphalt in a closed area—always work in an open, well-ventilated place. When possible, stay upwind of the fumes, and never lean over a hot kettle or next to a mixing pot. When fumes are unavoidable, always wear a respirator or a dust mask.
Take precautions before working with asphalt—it’s hot, sticky, and noxious. To lessen your exposure to fumes, keep your paving and asphalt seal coating equipment clean and free of excess asphalt and chemicals. Using some common-sense precautions will keep you safe and healthy when working with asphalt.
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