Protecting Workers from Potential Exposure Hazards to Diesel Exhaust

The American Board of Industrial Hygiene® (ABIH®) reminds workers and industry of the need to protect employees from respirable hazards.

Lansing, MI -- Diesel fuel is used to power engines for countless vehicles, heavy equipment, trains, boats and generators used across the globe. Industries from mining, transportation and construction to agriculture, maritime and manufacturing all depend on equipment powered by diesel engines.  

While this machinery is essential for business, the exhaust from diesel engines contains a mixture of gases and very small particles that can create occupational exposure risks if not properly controlled. In fact, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) released a Hazard Alert several years ago to address exposures to diesel exhaust (DE) and diesel particulate matter (DPM).


The Health Alert lists occupations with potential exposure to DE/ DPM. The list includes miners, construction workers, heavy equipment operators, bridge and tunnel workers, railroad workers, oil and gas workers, loading dock workers, truck drivers, material handling operators, farm workers, long-shoring workers, and auto, truck and bus maintenance garage workers.

In 2012, the International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC) classified DE (including DPM) as a known human carcinogen (Group 1). 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, in addition to lung cancer.

“There are millions of workers worldwide that are at risk of exposure to diesel exhaust and particulate matter,” said David Roskelley, CIH® and Chair of ABIH®. “Certified Industrial Hygienists are uniquely qualified to help protect workers from these and other potential occupational hazards. CIHs are trained in risks assessments; air sampling and instrumentational analysis; engineering controls and ventilation; health risk analysis and hazard communication; and work environments and industrial processes. This knowledge, in addition to administrative controls and the proper use of personal protective equipment, can be instrumental in reducing exposure risks and for keeping companies in regulatory compliance.” 

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