Reduce the Risks of Asphalt Fumes at Work

Reduce the Risks of Asphalt Fumes at Work

Asphalt is a byproduct of petroleum which is widely used in the construction industry. It releases potentially harmful fumes as it is heated for use.

construction workers exposed to asphalt fumes at work

Image Source: Flickr

How workers are exposed
Asphalt is common in the following industries:

  • Road construction
  • Paving
  • Roofing
  • Manufacturing


The risks      
Serious injuries or illnesses such as the following can be caused by asphalt fumes:

  • Cough
  • Nausea
  • Eyes, nose or throat irritation
  • Stomach pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Cancer


How to reduce the risks
If possible, a hazard must be fully eliminated or at least substantially reduced to keep employees safe. Below, you’ll see different controls arranged in order of their effectiveness that you can implement in your workplace.


Elimination or substitution
When doing tasks that involve asphalt, the most efficient form of control is to fully eliminate the risk by substituting a safer material or method.  Consider whether using a less hazardous component aside from asphalt is possible.


Engineering controls
Physical alterations to the facility, process, and machinery can lessen exposure. Consider asking questions like:

  • Can another method that produces less asphalt fume be utilized?
  • Can improvements be made with the ventilation?


Administrative controls
Changes to rules and regulations at work, distribution, and posting of awareness materials, and training of workers are all considered administrative controls. Ask the following questions:

  • Are workers trained in safe work and safe housekeeping practices?
  • Are warning signs posted within the area?


Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Because this control is the least effective, it must be used with another control in place. Consider these questions:

  • Do employees always wear the proper personal protective equipment while working?
  • Are workers trained on proper use and maintenance of the PPE?



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