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Breathe easy

December 1st, 2013 / By: / Safety & Codes

How to keep workers safe from diesel exhaust hazards.

Most people are exposed to diesel exhaust from time to time, but for many workers—including loading dock workers, truck drivers and heavy equipment operators—prolonged routine exposure and short–term exposure to high concentrations of Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM) can be a very real health concern. DPM is a component of diesel exhaust (DE) that includes soot particles made up primarily of carbon, ash, metallic abrasion particles, sulfates and silicates.

What are the health effects of DE/DPM?

  • Short–term exposure to high concentrations of DE/DPM can cause headache, dizziness and irritation of the eye, nose and throat.
  • Prolonged DE/DPM exposure can increase the risk of cardiovascular,
    cardiopulmonary and respiratory disease and lung cancer.

How can exposures to DE/DPM be controlled?

Engineering controls are the most effective strategy for minimizing worker exposure to DE/DPM. A combination of controls is often required.
Examples include:

  • Performing routine preventive maintenance of diesel engines to minimize emissions.
  • Installing engine exhaust filters.
  • Installing cleaner burning engines.
  • Installing diesel oxidation catalysts.
  • Using special fuels or fuel additives (e.g., biodiesel).
  • Providing equipment cabs with filtered air.
  • Installing or upgrading main or auxiliary ventilation systems, such as tailpipe or stack exhaust vents to capture and remove emissions in maintenance shops or other indoor locations.

Administrative controls refer to changes in the way work tasks are performed to reduce or eliminate the hazard. Examples include:

  • Limiting speeds and using one–way travel routes to minimize traffic congestion.
  • Prohibiting and/or restricting unnecessary idling or lugging of engines.
  • Restricting the amount of diesel–powered equipment and total engine horsepower operating in a given area and ensuring that the number of vehicles operating in an area does not exceed the capacity of the ventilation system.
  • Designating areas that are off–limits for diesel engine operation and/or personnel travel.

For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

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