Hazards & Prevention
Bitumen is a product that has enjoyed a long and safe history of use. Once it has been installed in roads, roofs or other applications, bitumen is an inert and hardwearing solid that represents no hazard to human health. During its storage, transportation and application it is heated to temperatures above 100° C, so hazards do exist for those who work with bitumen although these can be managed with appropriate procedures. The risk of being exposed to these hazards is minimised by following comprehensive health and safety guidelines which include measures such as:
- Keeping the temperature of the material as low as practically possible
- Working in well ventilated conditions
- Job rotation around a worksite
- Using personal protective equipment, especially in confined spaces
The “Guide to Safe Delivery of Bitumen” sets an industry benchmark for bitumen handling procedures. For more information, see our safety page. In addition, all Eurobitume members provide Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) which outline health protection guidelines for specific products. Purchasers can obtain MSDSs from their local bitumen suppliers.
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To many the words “hazard” and “risk” are interchangeable, but they have very different meanings. It is important to understand this difference when considering occupational health and safety issues.
HAZARD – Exists without doing harm
A hazard is the existence of a source of potential damage, harm or adverse health effects. A hazard can exist without doing any harm.
RISK – Only when exposed to hazard
Risk is the chance or probability that a person will be harmed or experience an adverse health effect if exposed to a hazard.
So, in working environments, the key issue for employers is first: to identify any hazard and, second: to minimise risk of exposure to such a hazard. Minimising risk of exposure may be as straightforward as following simple guidelines:
- Materials that are known to present a hazard are safely stored to prevent accidental contact.
- Workers who may be exposed to hazard in the course of their daily activities are aware of the appropriate health and safety procedures such as wearing personal protective equipment.