Chemical risks

Going beyond regulatory requirements, Colas devotes considerable research and organizational resources to the management of risks related to the use of chemical products and to ensure the safety of its personnel.

Chemical risks

Today, the Group's pioneering work in the removal of undesirable chemical substances during its production processes has been corroborated by the strategies underlying REACH, which stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemical Substances, the new European Community regulation on chemicals and their safe use. The REACH regulation calls for the gradual implementation of controls on all chemical substances before they can be manufactured or placed on the market in the European Union. Six priority areas for action have been identified:

  • solvents: gradual elimination of their use in laboratories, solvent dispensing systems in workshops, and of toluene in paint.
  • pigments: moving away from heavy metal-based pigments in paints together with the development of non-powdered formulations.
  • anti-tack agents: favoring the use of plant-based alternatives to fuel oil in the production and application of asphalt mixes.
  • bitumen fumes: providing support to independent European studies. 2013 was marked by the official publication two official documents on bitumen fumes: the monograph by the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) and an official report by ANES (French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety).  The IARC, which is the world’s leading scientific reference on the subject, stated in its publication that, despite the substantial number of studies carried out, it was unable to judge whether there is a link between cancer and exposure to bitumen and bitumen fumes in road work. The conclusions of the ANSES reflected the risk analyses carried out by the road construction industry. There are no grounds to consider a carcinogenic risk in the production or use of non-oxidized asphalt, but this substance does present risks of eye and upper respiratory irritation. There were no further publications in 2015. 
    Nevertheless, Colas is working to reduce exposure to bitumen fumes and has deployed a global strategy that focuses on two main areas: reducing bitumen temperatures at use, since reducing the temperature by 12°C divided the quantity of fumes emitted by two (an extensive R&D program on warm mixes is currently underway) and renewing the fleet of finishers (machines that apply asphalt mixes) to equip them with fume extraction systems.
  • resins: assistance with the GreenCoat research project for the development of sustainable chemicals, launched with other partners and with the support of Agence Nationale de la Recherche, the French national research agency, under the aegis of the ChemSud Foundation and in association with the ChemSud program of study.
  • waste oils: management of the elimination or recovery of this type of waste in all countries, which forms the bulk of the Group's hazardous waste. In 2016, the Group's rate of recovery for waste oils was 64% worldwide.