Avoiding and managing bitumen burns

Contact burns are the number one hazard when working with hot bitumen, which is used in a diverse range of applications: from road pavements, airport runways, taxiways and aircraft parking areas, to building water-proofing membranes, motor-racing circuit track surfaces, harbour roadways and cycle tracks.

Bitumen is hot when manufactured, transported and when used in most applications. To minimize the risk of bitumen burns, it is essential that everyone working with hot bitumen takes precautions.

To help workers stay safe when handling bitumen, experts from Eurobitume member companies have prepared a comprehensive suite of health and safety documents - available in various languages and accessed from the Publications section of the Eurobitume website, via Eurobitume members - containing helpful guidelines and advice covering burn prevention and treatment.

Burn prevention

To avoid bitumen contact burns, the three main areas to focus upon are:

1. Safe handling
2. Safe delivery
3. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

1. Safe Handling
The expert guidance in our Safe Handling Cards gives brief general advice on best practice regarding the safe handling of bitumen. It also provides information on key risks and general safety advice, including personal protective equipment (PPE) to avoid burns. The Safe Handling card is available in more than 20 languages.

2. Safe delivery
The first hazard to be aware of is the possibility of boil-over / violent eruptions when hot bitumen is loaded into a transportation tank. Because of the pressure used to unload bitumen tankers, the risk of bitumen contact burns is increased during delivery.

Comprehensive advice covering the safe loading, transportation and discharging of hot bitumen, the customer site, delivery and storage tank operation and maintenance, as well as delivery vehicle equipment and procedures, has been compiled by Eurobitume’s experts and is set out in our Safe Delivery Guides, which also include, where appropriate, local specifications for several European countries.

3. Personal Protective Equipment
When handling and transporting hot bitumen, always use the correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect yourself against the risk of hot bitumen splashing - which particularly can occur when loading commences.

As described above, guidance and advice regarding PPE is contained within several of our documents and also within the Personal Protective Equipment Toolbox Talk document, which is available from the Eurobitume website (in English).

Burn treatment

If someone is unfortunate enough to be the victim of a bitumen burn, Eurobitume has produced Bitumen burns cards which contain expert guidance and are available in 20 languages.

As with all our HSE documents, these cards are available from our website via Eurobitume members.

Safety showers

Every site where hot bitumen is handled should have a suitably-specified, suitably-located, working safety shower to aid the initial treatment of a bitumen burns victim.

Experts from Eurobitume member companies have a Safety shower guidance document, which is available from our website.

Promoting the efficient, safe use of bitumen
Our Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) Committee, and the various Task Forces and Work Groups which report into it, undertake a wide range of HSE-related research, analysis and thought-leadership activities on behalf of Eurobitume member companies.

They have also produced a wealth of expert HSE information, which is accessed from the HSE drop-down tab on our website, and many helpful HSE guidance and advice documents that are available for consultation from the Publications page and may be downloaded from the website via Eurobitume members.