Asphalt Burns and Treatments
Our industry requires the constant handling of liquid asphalt and hot asphalt pavement. While PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) can help protect against burns and injury, it is only a secondary line of defense. Proper handling techniques and awareness are necessary to prevent injuries. In the event that hot liquid asphalt or hot asphalt pavement comes in contact with your skin, here are a few treatment tips.
When a fresh load of asphalt arrives on the job site it is usually between 275 and 300 degrees Fahrenheit. If this high-temperature material comes in contact with your skin it is important to act quickly and remain calm. Although your instincts will tell you to remove the asphalt from your skin, this can cause more damage by removing the skin as well. Your first step should be to place the affected area under running water to reduce the asphalt to room temperature. Once it has cooled, you can begin to slowly remove the asphalt from your skin. Applying a topical antibiotic from the on-site first aid kit will allow for better preservation of the skin. It is always recommended to have the affected areas looked at by a medical professional to determine if any further action must be taken. Different Asphalt pavement mixes contain varying amounts of oil which affect how fast and firmly it adheres to the skin. PPE such as leather gloves, long pants, and long sleeve shirts are recommended to minimize skin exposure.
In asphalt production plants the handling of hot liquid asphalt is normally required. Special PPE such as chemical resistant gloves, aprons, and face shields should be used to prevent contact with the material that is an average of 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Most asphalt plants are equipped with wash down stations which should be used in the event that liquid asphalt comes in contact with the skin. Routinely inspect wash down stations so you can be sure they are in working order in case of an emergency. Also be aware that when cooled, liquid asphalt solidifies so it will most likely be necessary to seek medical attention to assist in removing it.
Paving roads or making hot mix requires us to be around hot materials daily, but the steps we take to protect ourselves will allow for a safer and more productive job site. Although it may sound simple we must always be aware of what is hot and what is not. Watch where you place your hands or position your body. We've all seen the guy standing in the wrong place when the crew starts shoveling asphalt. Watch out for your fellow workers and teach those who might not know about the hazards. There are hazards everywhere on the job, but with proper PPE use and awareness, we can try to eliminate accidents and keep our guys safe. Lastly, be sure to drink plenty of water when working with hot mix. The combination of the sun beating down on your head and the hot pavement at your feet can be one of the leading causes of heat stress.