Bitumen burns are different from most other chemical burns. The initial inclination might be to remove the bitumen as soon as possible, but this can cause more damage to the skin and increase the risk of infection and other complications. First aid guidance recommends that the bitumen be cooled for around 15 minutes with cold water and then referred to a doctor. If the bitumen has fully enveloped a limb, it can act as a tourniquet due to the limb swelling and restrict blood flow – this would need to be addressed by a doctor.
Tom Johnson is an emergency responder at the National Chemical Emergency Centre