Hot stuff: Working safely with bitumen

Bitumen is a very versatile material that helps provide valuable performance benefits in a wide variety of applications, from road pavements and airport runways, through to industrial water-proofing, motor-racing circuit track surfaces and harbour roadways.  

For most of these uses bitumen is applied hot, so temperature management is key for safe working with bitumen. Based on their practical and scientific expertise, Eurobitume´s members have developed Guidance on maximum safe handling temperatures:

  • Paving bitumen, including polymer modified bitumen, is supplied, stored and handled as a hot liquid at temperatures up to 200°C.
  • Industrial bitumen is supplied, stored and handled at temperatures up to 230°C.  

In both cases, the bitumen should be kept at least 30°C below the flash point, or national limits, whichever is lower. The temperature should always be kept as low as possible.

Safe Handling Temperatures

Most recently we updated our Safe Handling Cards to include the latest expert advice and current regulations. These have been produced for our member companies and are available in 14 languages.

The principal hazards and risks associated with the handling of bitumen are set out, and these cards also contain

  • general safety advice,
  • recommendations for personal safety measures, including PPE (personal protection equipment),
  • first aid recommendations,
  • advice about what to do in the event of a bitumen fire.

Our Safe Delivery Guides contain valuable advice regarding the safe loading, transportation and discharging of hot bitumen, including local specifications for several European countries.

Burn Cards

Bitumen Burns Cards were developed by Eurobitume to give guidance in the event of an individual coming into direct contact with hot bitumen, when early treatment is critical. Available in 14 languages, these cards not only contain practical first-responder advice for people attending incidents, but also include advice for medical professionals on how to treat burns from hot bitumen.

Wide Range of Expert Guidance

Eurobitume’s Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) Committee, and the various Task Forces and Work Groups which report into it, undertakes a wide range of research, analysis and thought-leadership activities on behalf of our members, and produces a wealth of expert guidance to support the safe, efficient and effective use of bitumen.

Recently, our experts have focussed upon concerns regarding hydrogen sulphide, H2S, in bitumen emissions - in the context of bitumen loading, discharge, storage, transportation and use. Following extensive research, we have produced detailed H2S guidance regarding the main hazards associated with H2S in bitumen emissions, the likely exposure scenarios and the potential risks associated with it.  

One of the additional areas which our HSE experts are also investigating and preparing advice on is workplace safety showers. They are also finalising a boil-over prevention document.  

Eurobitume´s members are experts on bitumen production, transportation, storage, application and handling, and are eager to share their knowledge with all working parties dealing with bitumen. Because safety is key for our industry.