Hazards of Working With Liquid Asphalt

by | May 9, 2024 | Asphalt Plant Explosions, Chemical Injury, Work Injury, Workplace Accident, Workplace Injuries

Liquid asphalt, also known as bitumen, plays a crucial role in the construction and maintenance of roads, highways, and infrastructure. However, despite its widespread use, it poses significant hazards to workers involved in its production, transportation, and application. Understanding these hazards is essential for ensuring the safety and wellbeing of workers in the asphalt industry.

In the article below, the workplace injury lawyers at Kherkher Garcia explore the hazards of working with liquid asphalt. We will explain how and why accidents and injuries often occur, as well as what workers need to know about protecting their rights.

What is Liquid Asphalt?

Liquid asphalt is a complex mixture of hydrocarbons derived from crude oil. It contains various volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and other potentially harmful chemicals. Exposure to these substances can occur through inhalation of vapors, skin contact, or ingestion. Certain PAHs found in asphalt are known carcinogens and can increase the risk of developing cancer, particularly lung cancer, among workers exposed to them.

What Workplace Injuries are Related to Liquid Asphalt Work?

Workplace injuries related to liquid asphalt work can vary in nature and severity, encompassing a range of acute and chronic health effects. Some common injuries and health issues associated with working with liquid asphalt include:

Burns and Skin Irritation

Direct contact with hot liquid asphalt can cause thermal burns, as well as chemical burns due to the caustic nature of the substance. Even brief contact with hot asphalt can result in painful burns and skin irritation. Prolonged exposure may lead to dermatitis, characterized by redness, itching, and inflammation of the skin.

Respiratory Issues

Inhalation of asphalt fumes and vapors can irritate the respiratory tract, leading to symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Prolonged exposure to asphalt fumes may exacerbate pre-existing respiratory conditions such as asthma or bronchitis. Certain components of asphalt, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), are known carcinogens and can increase the risk of lung cancer with prolonged exposure.

Eye Injuries

Splashes or splatters of hot liquid asphalt can cause eye injuries, including burns, irritation, and corneal damage. Workers handling asphalt should wear appropriate eye protection, such as safety goggles or face shields, to prevent eye injuries.

Slips, Trips, and Falls

Spills or leaks of liquid asphalt can create slippery surfaces, increasing the risk of slips, trips, and falls in the workplace. Workers should be trained to promptly clean up spills and use caution when working in areas where asphalt has been applied.

Heat-related Illnesses

Working with hot liquid asphalt exposes workers to high temperatures, especially during the warmer months or in regions with hot climates. Prolonged exposure to heat and humidity can increase the risk of heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Employers should implement measures to prevent heat stress, including providing access to shade, hydration, and frequent rest breaks.

Musculoskeletal Injuries

Handling and applying liquid asphalt often involve physically demanding tasks, such as lifting heavy materials, operating machinery, and performing repetitive motions. Over time, these activities can lead to musculoskeletal injuries such as strains, sprains, and repetitive stress injuries. Proper ergonomics and lifting techniques can help reduce the risk of such injuries.

Chemical Exposure

Liquid asphalt contains various volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other chemical constituents that can pose health risks through inhalation, skin contact, or ingestion. Chronic exposure to these chemicals may increase the risk of systemic health effects, including neurological, reproductive, and cardiovascular disorders.

Transportation Hazards

In addition to the hazards associated with handling and applying liquid asphalt, transportation poses its own set of risks for workers. Liquid asphalt is typically transported in heated tanker trucks, which presents the danger of spills, leaks, and accidents.

Spills of liquid asphalt can result in environmental contamination, posing a threat to ecosystems and public health. Cleanup of asphalt spills requires specialized equipment and procedures to prevent further spread and minimize environmental damage. Furthermore, tanker trucks carrying liquid asphalt are susceptible to rollovers and collisions, especially in adverse weather conditions or on uneven terrain. These accidents can cause serious injuries or fatalities to both truck drivers and other motorists on the road.

To address transportation hazards, employers should:

  • Implement Safe Driving Practices: Drivers of tanker trucks should receive comprehensive training in defensive driving techniques and be aware of the unique challenges associated with transporting liquid asphalt. They should also adhere to speed limits, avoid distractions, and maintain a safe following distance.
  • Conduct Regular Inspections: Tanker trucks should undergo regular inspections to ensure they are properly maintained and in compliance with safety regulations. This includes checking for leaks, inspecting brakes and tires, and verifying that emergency response equipment is readily available.
  • Emergency Preparedness: Employers should develop and implement emergency response plans for addressing accidents, spills, and other transportation-related incidents involving liquid asphalt. This may involve coordinating with local emergency responders and agencies to ensure a swift and effective response.

Safety Precautions

To mitigate the hazards associated with liquid asphalt, employers must implement comprehensive safety measures and provide appropriate training to workers. This includes:

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Workers should wear appropriate PPE, including respirators with organic vapor cartridges to protect against inhalation of asphalt fumes, gloves to prevent skin contact, and protective clothing to shield against burns.
  • Ventilation: Adequate ventilation systems should be installed in areas where asphalt is heated or applied to minimize exposure to fumes. Local exhaust ventilation can effectively capture and remove airborne contaminants at the source.
  • Engineering Controls: Engineering controls, such as automated equipment and enclosed workspaces, can help reduce direct contact with liquid asphalt and minimize the risk of exposure. For example, using mechanical applicators and paving machines instead of manual methods can decrease the likelihood of skin contact and burns.
  • Training and Education: Employers should provide comprehensive training to workers on the safe handling and use of liquid asphalt. This should include information on potential hazards, proper use of PPE, emergency procedures, and best practices for minimizing exposure.
  • Hygiene Practices: Workers should practice good hygiene, including washing hands and exposed skin thoroughly after handling asphalt and before eating, drinking, or smoking. Contaminated clothing should be removed and laundered separately from other garments.

Liquid asphalt is a valuable material used in the construction and maintenance of roads, but it poses significant hazards to workers in the asphalt industry. By implementing appropriate safety measures, providing adequate training, and promoting a culture of safety, employers can minimize the risks associated with liquid asphalt and protect the health and wellbeing of workers.

What Can Workers do to Protect their Rights after a Liquid Asphalt Injury?

Workers who sustain injuries while working with liquid asphalt have rights to protect their health, safety, and wellbeing. Taking appropriate steps to assert these rights can help injured workers receive the necessary support and compensation for their injuries. Here are some actions workers can take to protect their rights after a liquid asphalt injury:

Report the Injury

It is crucial for workers to report any workplace injuries promptly to their employer or supervisor. This should be done as soon as possible after the incident occurs, regardless of the severity of the injury. Reporting the injury creates a record of the incident and ensures that the worker receives timely medical attention and support.

Seek Medical Attention

Workers should seek medical attention for their injuries without delay. Even seemingly minor injuries should be evaluated by a healthcare professional to determine the extent of the damage and receive appropriate treatment. Documenting the injuries through medical records is essential for any future claims or legal proceedings.

Document the Incident

Workers should document the details of the incident as thoroughly as possible. This may include writing down what happened, taking photographs of the scene of the accident or injuries, and collecting contact information from any witnesses present. Such documentation can be valuable evidence in support of a workers’ compensation claim or legal case.

File a Workers’ Compensation Claim

In many jurisdictions, workers who suffer injuries on the job are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits typically cover medical expenses, lost wages, and disability benefits for work-related injuries or illnesses. Workers should file a workers’ compensation claim with their employer or the relevant workers’ compensation board to initiate the process of receiving benefits.

Consult with an Attorney

In cases where the injury is severe or the worker believes that their rights are being violated, it may be advisable to consult with an attorney who specializes in workers’ rights and personal injury law. An experienced attorney can provide legal guidance, advocate on behalf of the injured worker, and help navigate the complexities of workers’ compensation claims or civil lawsuits.

Workers should familiarize themselves with their rights under state or federal labor laws, as well as any applicable regulations governing workplace safety and health. This includes understanding their right to a safe working environment, the right to report unsafe conditions without fear of retaliation, and the right to seek compensation for workplace injuries.

Document Medical Expenses and Loss of Income

Keeping detailed records of medical expenses, including bills, prescriptions, and rehabilitation costs, as well as documenting any loss of income or wages due to the injury, is essential for accurately assessing the financial impact of the injury. This information will be necessary when pursuing workers’ compensation benefits or filing a personal injury claim.

Report Unsafe Conditions

Workers have the right to report unsafe working conditions or practices that contributed to their injury. By bringing attention to hazardous conditions or violations of safety regulations, workers can help prevent future accidents and protect the safety of themselves and their colleagues.

By taking proactive steps to protect their rights and seek appropriate compensation and support, workers injured while working with liquid asphalt can ensure that their health, safety, and well-being are prioritized following an injury on the job.

Get Help after a Liquid Asphalt Injury

Working in an environment where hazards are present does not mean you forego your rights. Often, workplace accidents are due to negligence and could be prevented. Workers injured due to negligence should explore their rights and options they may have to pursue compensation. One of the best ways to do that is consulting with a skilled workplace injury lawyer.

At Kherkher Garcia, we help workers who suffer injuries due to the negligence of others. Our team has more than 30 years of experience obtaining justice and compensation for our clients. If you were injured while performing liquid asphalt work, contact us to learn more about your rights and options. Our consultations are completely free.

Call us at 713-333-1030, or complete our online contact form to get started.

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Kevin Haynes

Kevin Haynes

Firm Partner and Trial Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Injury Trial Lawyer and Firm Partner Kevin Haynes. Kevin has been a practicing injury lawyer for more than 15 years. He has won $150 Million+ in Settlements and Verdicts for his clients. Kevin is powerful and effective in the courtroom and the trial lawyer you want on your side if you or a loved one have been seriously injured at work or on the road.

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