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Anyone embarking on a construction project is looking for the best result, which means using the best materials. Asphalt and concrete both have advantages and choosing the correct application requires considering several factors, including the project’s location, size and scope.

Both asphalt and concrete have silica in them, which means you have safety considerations when working with these materials. However, the manufacturing process and applications for asphalt and concrete are markedly different. Examining the pros and cons of each is the first step in a successful construction project.

What Is Concrete?

While many people believe that concrete and cement are the same, cement is only one of concrete’s three components. Concrete is made of water, Portland cement and an aggregate like gravel, rock or sand. When poured and hardened, you get the concrete you know so well.

Concrete has excellent longevity and can last between 30 and 100 years. It’s a completely recyclable material, often broken down and reused in construction projects. In the right conditions, it requires little maintenance and repairs. Its longevity also helps reduce its environmental impact — less need for repairs means less fuel burned for heavy equipment, which means fewer emissions.

Concrete is an excellent choice for many projects, including the following:

  • New construction, including new roads in urban areas
  • Road expansions
  • Underground utility construction and repair
  • Any areas exposed to the elements and wear and tear

Since concrete has silica in it, you’ll need to adhere to safety precautions when working with it in powder form.

What Is Asphalt?

What Is Asphalt?

Asphalt is a mixture of aggregates, a binder — bitumen is the most common — and fillers. Sand, gravel, crushed rock and slags are all common asphalt aggregates, but using construction and demolition debris can increase its longevity. The binder’s job is to turn the aggregates into a sticky, adhesive mixture. Bitumen is the standard binder choice, but manufacturers focused on minimizing environmental impact are exploring other bio-based options.

Asphalt is incredibly versatile and construction projects using asphalt include:

  • Parking areas
  • Runways
  • Sidewalks
  • Roads in rural areas
  • Perpetual pavements
  • Sports facilities
  • Highways
  • Soundproofing and waterproofing

While asphalt doesn’t last as long as concrete, installing it is more cost-effective. Since asphalt has silica in it as well, precautions are a must.

What Is the Difference Between Asphalt and Concrete?

Both asphalt and concrete have many advantages in construction, but there are differences to consider when choosing which will work best for a specific project. Keep the following in mind for your construction projects and you might just finish on time:

Climate Preferences

Concrete is more likely to deteriorate in colder climates. It’s prone to expand and contract with temperature changes, and de-icing salt on roads and sidewalks can cause additional cracks and damage.

Asphalt, on the other hand, isn’t affected by the cold and absorbs the heat better, causing snow and ice to melt faster. However, it’s more susceptible to sun and moisture damage, which can cause it to crack over time.

Installation and Maintenance Requirements

Asphalt is generally easier to work with than concrete, so if you need a project completed fast, asphalt may be the better choice. You can install and use it more quickly than concrete — it can be ready to use in as little as three days, depending on the size and scope of the project. Maintenance can be cost-effective, as you may only need to patch or repave the top layer. However, you will be conducting more regular maintenance on asphalt, so it may be worth comparing the costs for your specific project.

Installing concrete is a longer process and you may have to wait seven days before using it. It lasts longer and requires less regular maintenance, but when you need to maintain it, the cost of doing so is higher.


Concrete is more versatile than asphalt in terms of aesthetic appeal. It gives you a smoother finish and freedom to etch patterns, tint and stain the pavement for a variety of design options. If aesthetics are not a priority in a project, asphalt may be the better choice to save on installation costs.

Environmental Impact

While both are recyclable, they affect the environment in different ways. Concrete structures’ long life span means you can minimize energy output in the maintenance and repair phase.

Asphalt requires less energy but emits greenhouse during production and paving. Repairs may require heavy machinery, so there will be limited energy saving during repairs.

Asphalt and Concrete Safety Procedures

Both asphalt and concrete contain silica, which can be a severe health hazard for workers. Silica dust can get into the lungs, causing silicosis, lung cancer and other lung injuries. There are stringent safety procedures for cutting concrete, as the process causes excess dust.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has requirements and safety procedures for cutting asphalt and other silica-containing materials. Workers must wear appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE), including alkali-resistant gloves, eye protection goggles and a P-, N- or R-95 respirator. They must also avoid direct contact with dust and rinse their eyes and skin thoroughly with water if they do come into contact with it. Anyone working with asphalt or cement must limit eating and drinking to dust-free areas.

Although OSHA is revising the standards associated with crystalline silica, an employee shouldn’t be exposed to more than 50 micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air during an eight-hour working shift.

Employers must also comply with the following directives:

  • Write and implement a strategy to minimize exposure to silica.
  • Use water sprays and local exhaust ventilation (LEV) and ensure employees wear respirators.
  • Train workers so they’re empowered to protect themselves from silica exposure.
  • Provide medical examinations to exposed workers every three years, including lung function tests and chest X-rays.
  • Keep reliable records for the number of workers exposed to silica dust, medical records and treatment.

Protect Your Crew From Silica Dust With Hazmat School

Protect Your Crew From Silica Dust With Hazmat School

Worker safety and compliance with OSHA regulations are critical for successful construction businesses. Education is one of the key factors and Hazmat School provides the best hazardous waste and OSHA safety courses at the best prices. We can provide your construction business with everything you need to know about keeping your workers safe from silica exposure.

Our silica in construction course for competent persons will give you the knowledge to be OSHA-compliant as an employer. Meanwhile, our course for exposed workers provides workers with all the information they need to protect themselves. Please reach out and contact us today to book your training, stay compliant and prioritize your workforce today!

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