Diesel particulate matter is a component of diesel exhaust that includes soot particles made up primarily of carbon, ash, metallic abrasion particles, sulfates and silicates. Occupations with potential exposure to diesel exhaust include miners, construction workers, heavy equipment operators, truck drivers, material handling operators, and auto, truck and bus maintenance garage workers.
Most heavy-and medium-duty trucks are equipped with diesel engines, as well as mine equipment; buses, locomotives and ships; heavy equipment; and other types of equipment such as aerial lifts and generators.
Health effects of short term exposure to high concentrations of diesel exhaust can cause headache, dizziness, and irritation of the eye, nose and throat. Prolonged exposure can increase the risk of heart and lung disease, and lung cancer.
In June, 2012, the International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC) classified diesel exhaust as a known human carcinogen, which means it has been proven that this exhaust causes cancer in people.
Engineering controls are the most effective strategy for minimizing worker exposure to exhaust. A combination of controls is often required, and would be evaluated by the mechanic shop. These methods are often used when running engines inside of a facility or overhead environment that can trap exhaust.
- Performing 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, and
- 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.
- Limiting travel speeds
- Using one-way travel routes to minimize traffic congestion
- Restricting unnecessary idling or lugging of engines (high gear, low speed)
- Designate areas that are off-limits for diesel engine operation, such as where personnel are working
- Keep diesel burning equipment downwind of your work areas, excavations and confined spaces in particular, since ventilation is limited
- Shut off equipment when not in use
Plan out your work ahead of time and set up the work area to reduce hazards. This is the best way to minimize your exposure.