What is diesel exhaust?
Diesel exhaust is produced by diesel engines, which are used to power many types of heavy equipment. This can include large vehicles like buses, locomotives, trucks and ships as well as stationary machines.
The most significant components of diesel exhaust with respect to health hazards include organic compounds such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), sulfates and nitrates.
How Are Workers Exposed to Diesel Engine Exhaust?
The occupations at greatest risk for exposure to diesel exhaust are generally the operators of vehicles with large diesel engines, including the drivers of trucks, buses and farm equipment.
Additional occupations such as mining, landscaping and heavy equipment maintenance are also at risk of overexposure of diesel exhaust. Other workers who are around diesel engines while they’re in operation are at risk, even if their duties aren’t directly related to this equipment.
What Are the Health Concerns Associated with Exposure to Diesel Engine Exhaust?
Short-Term Occupational Exposure
The most common short-term effects of inhaling diesel exhaust are irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract, including nose, throat and lungs.
Symptoms of these effects include:
- Excess phlegm
Long-Term Occupational Exposure
Long-term exposure to diesel exhaust can lead to reduced lung function and other respiratory conditions such as asthma, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and chronic bronchitis. Even brief exposure to diesel exhaust can increase the duration and severity of asthma attacks in people who are already asthmatic.
What Are Measures to Mitigate Exposure to Diesel Engine Exhaust?
The best way to reduce exposure to diesel exhaust is to avoid areas where diesel engines are in operation.
Additional measures include ensuring that diesel equipment has the most advanced emission control system available, which in Canada generally includes engines manufactured after 2007. Engines that burn cleaner diesel fuels are also an effective method of minimizing the production of diesel exhaust.
Other Ways to Control Exposure to Diesel Exhaust Include:
- Using alternative fuels sources where and when possible
- Consider low-emission engines
- Perform regular maintenance to engines and workplace vehicles
- Implement proper ventilation procedures in work settings where emissions are present.
What Are The Worker and Employer Responsibilities in Minimizing Exposure to Diesel Exhaust?
Workers should take part in health and safety training related to diesel exhaust and employers should ensure that proper training is being arranged. This training ensures that all workers properly understand the hazards and health effects of exposure, while also presenting ways in which to minimize exposure.
Turning off diesel engines when they’re not in use and positioning them away from building air intakes are some of a worker’s most important responsibilities in minimizing exposure to diesel exhaust. Employers must maintain diesel engines regularly and retrofit them as technological improvements become available.
Trusted Diesel Engine Exhaust Exposure Control Plans
Chemscape Safety Technologies develops unique and industry-leading diesel engine exhaust exposure control plans that are specially written to alignwith our clients business operation – all while maintaining industry standards and best practices. For more information about diesel engine exhaust exposure control plans, contact the team at Chemscape today.