Environmental, Health & Safety

Respiratory exposure remains well below standards for asphalt paving applications

Springtime training for construction activities often reinforces proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and respiratory protection, safe handling, and other training requirements associated with asphalt paving jobs.

OSHA always recommends employers identify and analyze potential job-site hazards and, when necessary, provide appropriate PPE or training to minimize or eliminate such hazards. Inhalation exposure is no different.

Asphalt pavement mix is a solid at ambient temperature. When it is applied at elevated temperatures, certain components in the mix may reach their vapor point and off-gas. Because asphalt binder is a complex mixture, only the more volatile components will off-gas at paving temperatures.

Decades of research and industrial hygiene assessments, coupled with a variety of government and NGO occupational health standards, continue to ensure worker protection. Over the last few decades, the implementation of paving machine controls along with the introduction and use of various mix technologies to reduce paving application temperatures have further reduced potential occupational inhalation exposure to paving asphalt emissions.

Asphalt emissions from the vast majority, if not all, typical paving applications have been studied for decades and shown to be well below applicable occupational exposure levels (OELs), like the ACGIH TLV®. However, for non-traditional paving practices – for example, using high-temperature mixes or paving in a long, unventilated tunnel – such exposure situations may warrant further investigation to ensure exposures are below applicable OELs and remain safe for workers.

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