North Carolina Work Injuries and Fatalities Caused By Asphalt Machines, Fumes

In a tragic workplace injury in North Carolina, an employee was killed at a Summerville asphalt company after becoming caught in the machine he was operating.


Our Asheville workers’ compensation attorneys have read the various media reports on the incident, and know that it’s not yet clear exactly how the events unfolded. What is known is this:

The 48-year-old was working at a plant on Asphalt Drive, near Hot Spot gas station. It was around 11 a.m. when firefighters from Pine Ridge Volunteer Fire Department pulled him from a concrete auger, which is a machine designed to churn concrete. He had reportedly been doing some maintenance work on the machine.

He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The local coroner’s office has ruled the death accidental.

Federal investigators with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration – or OSHA – are looking into the matter.

The fire chief was quoted as saying “it was just a bad accident.”

That may be true in that no one intended for the worker to die – that’s why it’s called an “accident.” But from a legal standpoint, that doesn’t mean no one is at fault.

Employers have a host of responsibilities when it comes to the protection of their workers, and if you or a loved one has been injured on the job, your first call – after seeking medical treatment – should be to an attorney.

That being said, this is a somewhat rare situation. The more common issue for employees who work with asphalt is injury or illness caused by the fumes. Unlike the incident involving the asphalt auger, illness sustained due to asphalt fumes is more a result of chronic exposure, rather than an acute injury. Asphalt is the chemical compound often used to construct roofs, roadways and parking lots.

According to OSHA, more than 500,000 workers in the country are exposed to asphalt fumes each year. The immediate side effects from this type of work can include:

  • Skin rashes;
  • Headaches;
  • Fatigue;
  • Eye and Throat Irritation;
  • Cough;
  • Decreased appetite;
  • Skin Cancer.

It’s also been known to cause reproductive problems and long-term breathing issues.

Unfortunately, there are no standards that OSHA holds specific to asphalt fume ingestion. In general, it falls under the guidelines for various chemicals. Mitigating the risk for a dangerous level of exposure requires certain personal protective equipment and training that must be provided to the worker by the employer.

If you regularly work with hot asphalt, here are a few ways to reduce your chances of dangerous exposure:

  • Respirators should be worn if there is no local exhaust ventilation available;
  • Protective clothing should be worn at all times;
  • Clean your body, eyes and clothes thoroughly after the end of every shift in which you’ve been closely working with asphalt;

If you or a family member has been injured or killed in a machine-related work accident in North Carolina or has suffered illness from asphalt exposure on the job, contact the Carolina Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at Lee Law Offices, P.A. for legal advice. We are dedicated to helping protect the rights of injured workers and their families. Call for a free no-obligation appointment at 1-800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Hazardous Substance Fact Sheet, New Jersey Department of Health And Senior Services

Worker Dies In Plant Accident, WY

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