Why Control Diesel Fumes?


Officially termed diesel exhaust emissions, the stuff that comes out the exhaust of diesel engines is made up of: Carbon, nitrogen, water, carbon monoxide, aldehydes, oxides of sulphur and of nitrogen as well as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Normally, the soot (carbon) component of the fumes makes up 60 to 80% this is dependent on the fuel used and the engine / vehicle. Most of the contaminants are found absorbed in the soot. Interestingly, petrol engines produce more carbon dioxide but significantly less soot, hence the push for petrol cars in recent years.

Diesel fumes and health:

Breathing diesel fume can affect your health both in the short and long term. In the short term reported issues are irritation of the eyes or respiratory system. Longer-lasting exposure can lead to coughing and breathing difficulties. Prolonged exposure has also been linked to increased risk of lung cancer. This is likely to be from the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons as they are a well-documented carcinogen.     

Diesel fumes in the workplace:

Commonly, fumes are found in workplaces where heavy machinery or vehicles are being operated. However, even entrances and exits to car parks have high concentrations of fume. Working in tunnels or where generators are being used can also expose individuals to exhaust gasses. If you are worried that exposure levels are too high in your workplace our occupational hygienists here at R&B Industrial can undertake monitoring (particulate, gas monitoring, personal and static monitoring for both long and short term exposure) to astatine if controls are required. If controls are already in place, we can confirm if the measures are working to protect employees and the public.

What can be done to protect everybody in the working environment?

There are a number of simple things that can be done to reduce fume in the workplace such as keeping doors and windows open (or closed) to remove fume (or stop it entering), turning off engines when not in use and correctly wearing the respiratory equipment (RPE) and personal protective equipment (PPE) provided. At R & B Industrial we can give advice on RPE and PPE as well as carry out Face Fit Testing to ensure that RPE is protecting individuals as it should be.

The most comprehensive method of control is using a vehicle exhaust extraction system (VEES). These systems can vary depending on application, control required etc. If you are interested in these systems do not hesitate to give R & B Industrial a call to see what we can offer for your workplace. We have worked with various customers to install effective VEES, including fire & rescue services. These systems attach to the appliances tail pipe and only release when the vehicle has exited the building. They are often fully automatic and start extracting as soon as the vehicle is started.

We also offer LEV servicing and testing of all VEES systems by our qualified P601 engineers. This ensures systems are working as required and meet current HSE regulations.

Regulations surrounding diesel fume and the workplace

Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (as amended) (COSHH) employers must undertake “a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to health if individuals are exposed to diesel fumes”. Necessary steps should be taken to prevent or adequately control exposure in the workplace.

It is recommended under the hierarchy of control that RPE is a last resort as it only protects the wearer and not everyone in the workplace. 

Any control measures used must be “properly maintained” and “checked regularly”. 

Final thoughts 

If this article has raised any questions regarding diesel exhaust emissions and the protection of your employees and you are interested in any of our services, please get in touch. If soot is seen on the walls, ceiling, or other surfaces this is normally a good indicator that diesel contaminates are not being controlled effectively.  

Contact us

Our dedicated team will be happy to help with any of your extraction and ventilation requirements.