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Benzo[a]pyrene exposure

What is the potential risk?

Benzo[a]pyrene is a chemical compound found in coal tar and diesel exhaust fumes. Workers who inhale fumes containing benzo[a]pyrene may be at risk of developing adverse health effects, such as cancer.

Benzo[a]pyrene is a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH): a group of chemicals that forms as a product of combustion. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified PAH as a human carcinogen. Workers who use coal tar are at risk of exposure and negative health effects.

Those at risk may include workers involved in paving and roofing, chimney sweeping, aluminum production, and coal fuel production.

Which industries may be at risk?

  • Small aluminum product manufacture
  • Aluminum smelter
  • Asphalt or tar roofing product manufacture
  • Coal mining
  • Chimney cleaning
  • Paving services
  • Tar roofing work

How can I reduce the risk in my workplace?

As an employer, you need to know if there is the potential for the risk identified in this advisory to be present in your workplace. It’s your responsibility to regularly inspect your workplace, and to ensure that your safety procedures and practices control the risk. The following information highlights some of the sections of the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Regulation and Guidelines that are most relevant to this risk.

When using hazardous products (such as benzo[a]pyrene) or engaging in activities and processes that may generate them as by‐products, the employer must provide information to workers on the identity, health effects, and precautions for the safe use of the products, as per the WHMIS requirements in Part 5 of the Regulation.

Section 5.54 of the Regulation requires that employers implement an exposure control plan (ECP) when:

  1. exposure monitoring under section 5.53(3) indicates that a worker is or may be exposed to an air contaminant in excess of 50 percent of its exposure limit
  2. measurement is not possible at 50 percent of the applicable exposure limit
  3. it’s otherwise required by the Regulation

Section 5.57 of the Regulation requires that worker exposure to carcinogens and sensitizers must be maintained at levels as low as reasonably achievable below the exposure limit. These substances must be replaced, if practicable, with a material that reduces the risk to workers.

Additional ECP requirements are also specified in sections 5.55–5.59 of the Regulation.

Publication Date: Jan 2016 Asset type: Risk Advisory Reference: RA 2016-03