10 November 2015

Diesel Exhaust in the Workplace. Are Your Workers at Risk?

Emergency Diesel Generator Exhaust

Information published by Safe Work Australia in October 2015, confirms that approx. 1.2 million Australian workers were exposed to diesel exhaust in the workplace, and exposure to diesel exhaust can cause negative health effects.

Diesel exhaust is a complex mixture of hazardous gases, vapours, liquid aerosols and fine particulate substances, and is a by-product from engines burning diesel fuel.

Acute (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.

Diesel engine exhaust emissions contain many known carcinogenic substances, and chronic (long-term) exposure can worsen asthma and allergies and increase the risk of heart and lung disease.

The major source of workplace exposure is from heavy duty vehicles that use diesel fuel, as well as stationary power sources like emergency diesel generators.

Emergency diesel generators are critical safety devices for some large workplace facilities. They provide immediate backup electrical power in case of sudden power failure, however, they can also create problems when regularly tested (generally weekly without load and monthly under load).

Diesel exhaust pollution expelled from an emergency diesel generator can easily be re-entrained into the ventilation system of your building (or an adjacent building) through airflow intakes / inlets, affecting workplace air handling systems.

Enclosed, poorly ventilated areas can result in higher levels of exposure to diesel exhaust, so good building ventilation is important for the health and wellbeing of your workers.

High plume dilution fans, such as the Strobic Air Tri-Stack, can prevent re-entrained diesel exhaust fumes from emergency diesel exhaust generators entering the ventilation system of your building (or adjacent buildings). Key design features of these Strobic fans combine process air with entrained air to produce a substantially diluted exhaust stream to create a safe work environment (without tall stacks).

Strobic Air High Plume Dilution Fans

There is currently no workplace exposure standard for diesel exhaust, and air monitoring for diesel emissions may provide an indication of diesel exhaust levels. Safe Work Australia advises that workplace air monitoring should be conducted with advice from a competent person like an occupational hygienist.

If you are uncertain about diesel exhaust levels in your workplace, download the Diesel Exhaust Hazard Identification Checklist, created by the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists.  A ‘Yes’ to any of the hazard identification questions indicates that diesel exhaust may be a health issue in your workplace which should be investigated and,  where appropriated, controls implemented.

For more information about diesel exhaust exposure, visit Safe Work Australia.


Phone: 1300 886 353
Email: info@airepure.com.au