What is Diesel Particulate?
Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM) can act like a gas and stay airborne for long periods of time. DPM can penetrate deep into the lungs because of its small size and cause Short Term (Acute) or Long Term (Chronic) health effects.
The major source of workplace exposure to diesel exhaust is from heavy vehicles that use diesel fuel like trucks, buses, trains, tractors, ships, bulldozers and fork lift trucks. Diesel exhaust may also be generated from stationary power sources like generators and winch motors including those mounted to vehicles.
What are the Health Effects?
Short-term (Acute) effects Short term exposure to high concentrations of diesel exhaust can irritate the eyes, nose, throat and lungs and cause light-headedness, coughing, phlegm and nausea. Very high levels of diesel exhaust exposure can lead to asphyxiation from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Long-term (Chronic) effects Long term exposure can worsen asthma and allergies and increase the risk of heart and lung disease. Diesel engine exhaust emissions contain many known carcinogenic substances. DPM is easily inhaled into the respiratory tract and ongoing exposure to diesel exhaust emissions may result in an increase in the risk of lung cancer.
Is there an Exposure Standard?
Currently there is no Workplace Exposure Standard (WES) for DPM, however SafeWork Australia is seeking feedback on a proposed WES.
The recommended standard proposed for diesel particulate matter is an 8-hour time weighted average of 15 µg respirable elemental carbon per cubic metre.
You can have your say on the proposed submission here: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/media-centre/news/have-your-say-workplace-exposure-standard-diesel-particulate-matter
What can I do to minimise Exposure?
You can assess the risk of exposure to workers by asking the following:
- Is there visible smoke near the exhaust of plant or equipment?
- Are engines left running?
- Is the area enclosed?
- Is there a visible haze? Can it be avoided?
If you answered yes to the above, then you can look at some simple control measures to put in place. Some examples of controls could be:
- Installed catalytic converters to plant
- Use ventilation systems
- Switch off engines
- Ensure regular maintenance is conducted
- Isolate workers from plant
Get in touch
For more assistance with DPM in your workplace, get in touch with the neXtrack team https://nextrack.com.au/contact.