Incident reporting to help further raise safety levels within the bitumen supply chain

Bitumen is a very versatile, sustainable, durable and 100% recyclable construction material which has many different applications. As well as being a crucial component in the asphalt we use to build roads, where it provides a backbone for personal and business travel, tourism and logistics, bitumen is vital to all kinds of construction and infrastructure projects, including waterproofing buildings and preserving residential areas, and helps provide a wide range of valuable performance benefits across numerous other applications.

Solid at ambient temperatures, bitumen needs to be in liquid form (between 160°C and 220°C depending on the grade) during production, transportation, storage and handling. Hot bitumen is a hazard that can potentially be harmful to individuals, so to help everyone involved in handling bitumen stay safe, manage the risks and protect the environment, Eurobitume has created an extensive range of safe handling guidance documents that extend across all aspects of the bitumen supply chain - including loading and unloading, transportation and supply.

Safety incident reporting

Unfortunately, safety incidents and near misses do still occur, mainly either on delivery or at the loading site.

Figure 1: Number of reported incidents 2022 to mid-23, by incident location

The incidents, which can have a more harmful impact if there is inappropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), are often the result of either:

  • a loss of control
  • a failure to follow safe handling procedures
  • inadequate or inadequately maintained equipment

So, to help further improve the safe handling of bitumen throughout the supply chain, Eurobitume helped introduce a scheme where members can anonymously record and share details of safety incidents, including ‘near misses’. This not only identifies the most critical areas where incidents occur, but also helps raise awareness of good practice and will improve safety.

Reporting helps improve safety levels

Quarterly reporting of incidents and near misses, both of which may be none, in that period is conducted in countries all over Europe, helping increase safety levels and drive down the number of reported safety incidents.

The quarterly reports revealed that two out of three reported incidents happened at delivery sites, with most of those related to uncontrolled spills - of less than 10 litres up to more than 100 litres.

Figure 2: Uncontrolled bitumen spills as percentage of incidents, by month

Figure 3: A spill during the delivery of a PMB (spill from the top of the storage tank).

Reporting reveals additional safety issue

Despite the fact that these uncontrolled bitumen spills are avoidable, with appropriate measures, they represent a risk of very serious burns and potentially fatal consequences if hot bitumen comes into contact with the skin of personnel handling the bitumen.

To reduce the risk and impact of such bitumen spills, Eurobitume has produced a suite of safe handling of bitumen at delivery site guidance documents which cover the following areas:

  • Bitumen burns (cards updated in 2023)
  • Boil-over prevention
  • Deliveries into new / returned-to-service storage tanks
  • Ground-based operations, including ground-based pumps
  • Hydrogen Sulphide
  • Loading compatibility
  • PPE (Personal Protection Equipment)
  • Ground-based vehicle operation
  • Safe handling
  • Safety showers

To view any of the HSE-related documents on the Eurobitume website, please click here and select HSE from the ‘Document Type’ drop-down.