Asphalt and pitch roofing involves the use of hot chemicals that add an additional layer of complexity and hazard to a roofing job. Make sure to get training on general roofing hazards and working at heights. In addition, specialized training in asphalt and tar handling procedures can prevent fires, burns, and potential overexposure to airborne contaminants. Recommendations are outlined below:

Before you begin work

  • Know the properties of the material you use by reading the Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and manufacturer’s directions.
  • Wear the proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
  • Wear sturdy work boots and coveralls along with gloves, safety glasses, and a hard hat.
  • Utilize skin protection when handling coal tar pitch.
  • Keep washing facilities available in case of skin exposures.

When working with asphalt and pitch in buckets, make sure you

  • Do not fill the bucket closer than four inches from the top.
  • Do not fill any other type of container over 75% of its capacity.
  • Never carry buckets of hot asphalt or pitch on ladders.
  • Carry only one bucket at a time if you work on a roof with a slope of 6:12 or steeper.

When you work with kettles or tankers that are used to heat the asphalt or pitch

  • Keep an extension handle of sufficient length near the kettle at all times to allow safe closing of a stuck spigot.
  • Securely fasten pumper pipelines to the roof; do not support them with access ladders.
  • Make use of hoists or hand lines between the kettle/tanker and the roof.
  • Remember to keep a pathway free of debris between the kettle and the hoist or hand line.
  • Only use kettles with a fluid level indicator (dipstick) that can determine the liquid level without opening the lid.
  • Never carry portable butane lighters above a kettle on the roof. They have been known to fall into the pot and explode.
  • Vents are required for kettles. Use vents at least 100 square inches for kettles up to 200-gallon capacity. Use vents at least 200 square inches for all larger capacity kettles.
  • When you move a kettle on a public street or roadway, drain it to at least 5 inches below the splash rail to prevent spills.

Safety controls and maintenance

If your kettle or tanker has a thermostat controller and if you have an emergency manual pump shutoff controller on the roof, you do not need to have a constant attendant. For any other type of kettle and tanker, maintain an attendant at all times while the burner flame is on. The attendant should be within 100 feet and have easy access with no obstacles in the pathway to the kettle or tanker.

Make sure the kettle and pot heater fuel containers are maintained and functioning properly.
Fuel tanks (used to heat the tar pot) that make use of power-pumped air should be equipped with a pressure relief valve set no greater than 60 pounds/square inch.

Fire prevention

Keep a Class BC fire extinguisher (designed to fight fires caused by electrical equipment or flammable liquids) near the kettle to fight fires. The type of kettle will determine the appropriate UL rating for your fire extinguisher:

  • 150-gallon kettle: use a fire extinguisher with a UL rating of 8:BC.
  • 150-350 gallon kettle: use a fire extinguisher with a UL rating of 16:BC.
  • 350 gallon kettle or larger: use a fire extinguisher with a UL a 20:BC.

When your workers are aware of the hazards they’re working with, follow safe procedures, and use the proper PPE, they can reduce their exposure to these hazards and complete the job safely.

The above evaluations and/or recommendations are for general guidance only and should not be relied upon for medical advice or legal compliance purposes. They are based solely on the information provided to us and relate only to those conditions specifically discussed. We do not make any warranty, expressed or implied, that your workplace is safe or healthful or that it complies with all laws, regulations or standards.