Is your legacy asphalt plant increasing your health and safety risks?

If your asphalt plant is more than 10 years old, due to the nature of the industry, it’s likely to have some health and safety risk factors, including hot bitumen and difficult access to hazardous areas.
Automation brings numerous benefits to an asphalt plant. Our controls are retrofitted to your plant to help you work more efficiently, sustainably, and profitably. But another benefit that’s often overlooked is automation’s impact on health and safety. In this article, we explain some of the health and safety risks of older asphalt plants and how our products mitigate them.

The risk of hot mix falling on loading trucks

Aside from exposure to fumes and pollutants, one of the most significant health and safety risks in an asphalt plant is hot asphalt being spilt onto trucks during the loading process.

Trucks are loaded with asphalt from massive silos 10 metres high, with 30 to 40 tonnes of asphalt inside. At the bottom of the silo is a trapdoor that you open and close to drop the 160°C mix into your truck, ready for transportation to the site.

The potential hazard occurs if a truck drives to the incorrect bin and the plant operator automatically opens another bin. Hot asphalt drops onto the driver’s truck, risking injury and causing significant damage to machinery.

Our solution: truck drive-through safety systems

Our LC404 ‘Loadout Control’ software and hardware not only manage loadout but also include truck safety features, with interlocks to prevent mix from dropping onto trucks, which also ensures compliance with safety protocols.

How does it work?

To begin the loading process, the operator selects a bin, a light flashes on the selected bin, and the driver takes position under it. Once the driver is in place, they must push a button to confirm their position. Only then is the door lock released, allowing the operator to drop asphalt into the truck. This cut-off is bulletproof: You cannot open the wrong bin at any point once selected – nor release any mix if the driver has not yet confirmed they are in position.

With these interlocks, it’s impossible for the wrong bin to be opened, or for the right bin to be released at the wrong time.

As well as eliminating the health and safety hazard of mix being dumped onto trucks, this helps prevent a scenario where the wrong bin is opened, dumping material onto the ground and wasting asphalt. According to design engineer Peter Taylor, “This probably happens a lot more than you would know!”

The hazardous environment presented by bitumen tanks

The process area around bitumen tanks is another hazardous environment in asphalt plants. It is cramped and awkward to access, with bitumen spillages creating the additional hazards of tripping and exposure to fumes.

Older asphalt plants often have manual valves on their tanks, meaning a worker has to enter the tank area, mount the handle on top of the valve, turn it, then go back to the control room or a remote control panel and turn on the pumps.

Our solution: automated tank controls

Our TC404 tank module is designed to control and monitor your bitumen storage and delivery. This system automates the entire process and enables valves to be switched on from within the control room, minimising employee exposure to a hazardous environment.

That’s not all the TC404 can do when it comes to improving health and safety, either. The system makes monitoring and controlling the tanks very simple and visual, and it’s a big step up from the hardware on many older tanks in terms of safety.

Here’s an image of a basic tank control system:

By contrast, this is what the TC404 tank control system looks like on screen:

The TC404 tank control system gives you a complete visualisation of the status of your tanks. Immediately, you can see clearly what levels are in each tank, which tank is which, what temperature the tanks are, where bitumen is flowing, and, most importantly, whether there are any alarms or warning messages on each tank.


Automatic safety alerts if something goes wrong


The TC404 sends remote alarm notifications to operators’ phones via SMS to ensure they know there’s a problem, even if they aren’t in the tank control room.


If a tank gets too hot or too cold, or the bitumen changes levels when it shouldn’t, the system automatically alerts an operator (or several). This prevents hazardous situations from developing or escalating and helps ensure the safe running of your asphalt plant.


Automation will improve the overall safety of your plant


According to national health and safety regulations, it is the responsibility of management to eliminate health and safety risks as far as is practicable. We are here to help you do that while improving the operations and profitability of your plant.


For safety benefits and efficiency gains, contact us to find out more about installing the LC404 or TC404 at your site. We can add these systems onto any existing asphalt plant infrastructure without an expensive rebuild.


Check out the other blogs in our asphalt explainer series, where we discuss how to drive down waste in your asphalt plant and how to improve efficiency and reduce costs.