Bitumen, across its wide range of industrial applications, is a product that has enjoyed a long and safe history of use. A naturally occurring substance, bitumen, at ambient temperatures, is a hard-wearing solid that poses no health or environmental hazards.
Health and the General Public
Under normal environmental conditions, bitumen exists as a solid and does not present any health hazard.
Bitumen is normally transported at elevated temperatures, in liquid form, to allow ease of handling. As such, tankers will carry material marking boards to indicate the transportation of hot liquid.
Eurobitume UK and its members promote strict control guidelines over the handling temperature of bituminous applications in order to minimise general fume emissions.
Any vapours arising from the hot application of bitumen do not normally pose any health risk in an open or well-ventilated environment.
For further information on bitumen and health please contact Eurobitume UK'sTechnical Office.
Health and the Industry
Any hazards faced by bitumen industry workers arise primarily from the handling of an elevated temperature substance.
At high temperatures bituminous products generate vapours. Prolonged, unprotected and proximate exposure to fumes produced through the application or transfer of hot bitumen can cause respiratory tract and eye irritation. Although such emissions are minimal, workers are required to use protective clothing in order to eradicate the risk of incurring such irritation.
The bitumen industry encourages the use of good working practices including control of the temperature of bituminous materials to minimise exposure to fumes.
Eurobitume UK has also committed itself to the reduction of occupational hazards such as thermal burns and fire. The UK Edition of the Guide to Safe Delivery of Bitumen sets an industry benchmark for bitumen handling procedures see safety page. In addition, all Eurobitume UK members provide, voluntarily, Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) which provide health protection guidelines for specific products. Purchasers can obtain MSDSs from their local bitumen suppliers.
Bitumen and Occupational Hazard
Bitumen in service (in the road, on the roof, ... ) is an inert material and represents no hazard to human health. During its storage, transportation and application it is heated to high temperatures so, for those working with bitumen, hazards do exist, although these can be easily managed. “Hazard” and “Risk” have very different meanings. See how they differ on the safety page or click on the lion image to see more.
A downloadable version of the RBA burns card can be found in the safety section of this site.
For guidance on how to implement best practice in the handling of bitumen contact your local bitumen supplier for a MSDS or contact the Eurobitume UK Technical Office.