NEWS | June 12, 2020

Safety: Use Caution When Handling CWCBs

Creosote-covered chock block
Creosote-covered chock block (Courtesy photo)

They look like simple, slightly scorched blocks of wood. What danger could there possibly be in handling or using creosote wooden chock blocks (CWCBs)?

Plenty, as it turns out. The creosote coating on CWCBs is a carcinogenic material. It’s an environmental hazard, as well as a health risk.

Many units will come into contact with CWCBs at some point. That’s because they’re commonly used when shipping equipment on rail cars. They’re often used to prevent equipment from moving during rail transportation.
 
Chock blocks used for rail transportation
Chock blocks used for rail transportation (Courtesy photo)

CWCBs are brown or black in color, like tar or used motor oil. They usually have a smoky smell due to the creosote.
 
Creosote is a mixture of chemicals created during the high temperature distillation of coal tar, and is the most common method used for preserving wood in the United States. It’s ideal for preventing wood-rotting fungi and wood-destroying insects.

Anyone who handles or works around CWCBs needs to take special precautions, especially Soldiers who help with shipping, loading and unloading equipment.

“Read and heed” the safety data sheet (SDS). Always use personal protection equipment (PPE) when in contact with creosote. That includes safety eyeglasses, dust masks, rubber gloves, and coveralls or aprons.  

For a copy of the creosote SDS, an FAQ and the Guide for Handling, Reuse and Disposal of Chemically Treated Wood Material (Jan 17), visit our milSuite page and search under the “Safety” category: