Hot Tar Burns in Roofing

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Anyone who has ever been in a shopping center while it is having its roof re-done knows the awful smell of hot tar and tar paper. The smell is awful but is nothing compared to what the individuals charged with re-doing the roof must face. These individuals face dangers from the tar itself, the extreme heat from the kettles or melting agents, and the hazards of ladders all make roofing with hot tar a dangerous job.Typically, hot tar roofs are applied in the roofing industry only on commercial buildings with low slope Built-Up Roofing (BUR) systems. This type of roof is applied by using cotton or fiberglass mops to apply a base or initial coat of hot, liquid tar. Next, the roofers apply overlapping layers of tar paper (asphalt-impregnated felt) over the hot tar. Once this is done, more tar is applied to the tar paper to create a leak-proof roofing system.Tar goes from a manufacturer to the roofing company typically in solid 100 pound cartons or kegs. It can be heated and transported via a tanker truck to the work site in liquid form or it can be chopped up into manageable pieces and fed into a heating kettle for melting and use at the job site. The hardest part of the entire process is getting the tar from the ground to the roof.In many cases, a company will use a pump to move the tar from the kettle or tanker on the ground to a hot lugger on the roof. A hot lugger is a storage tank for liquid tar that keeps it heated and in liquid form. Some companies, however, do not have pumps and luggers but instead rely on buckets and ladders to transport the tar to the roof.Once the tar is on the roof, it is moved into buckets or mop carts by the roofers. They then empty the mop cart or bucket onto the roof and spread the tar out with their mops.While the roof does a really great job of keeping water out (most of the time), hot tar is very dangerous to the people that work with it. It can splash and cause burns. In addition, when it is liquid, it is very slick. This makes it easy for a worker to slip and fall into the hot tar. If he’s lucky, he’ll fall away from the hottest tar but luck isn’t always on one’s side.When tar makes contact with skin, it cools and solidifies and sticks. Tar is kept at a very high temperature and so the burns are likely to be severe when it makes contact. Unfortunately, the fact that it then hardens on the skin makes the burns worse as there is then more pain involved in getting the tar off of the skin so the burn can be treated.For more information on hot tar and other injuries, please visit

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