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What do workers need to know about diesel fumes?

Workers should ensure they have been informed about the risks of diesel exhaust emissions (DEEEs) exposure and how to avoid them. Here are some examples of what workers can do to protect themselves.

  • Follow safe systems of work that are in place.
  • Know how to use associated equipment correctly or control equipment/components.
  • Be able to detect faults with equipment and know how to report them.
  • Be able to use ventilation methods.
  • Turn off engines when they are not in use and do not leave them idle, if possible.
  • Do not eat or drink in areas known for DEEE exposures and wash hands/face before eating, drinking and leaving the workplace.
  • Avoid skin contact with diesel fuel or oil.
  • Know how to use RPE correctly.
  • Report any symptoms associated with DEEE exposure and visit a medical professional.

Health symptoms

See your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:

  • a cough that doesn’t go away after two or three weeks
  • a long-standing cough that gets worse
  • persistent chest infections
  • coughing up blood
  • an ache or pain when breathing or coughing
  • persistent breathlessness
  • persistent tiredness or lack of energy
  • loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss.

What professional drivers can do

Professional drivers are usually exposed to high levels of DEEE while working. This risk increases when they are working in congested traffic areas and driving at busy times of day.

Workers can protect and minimise their exposure to DEEEs by:

  • driving with the windows closed, so they are not breathing in DEEEs
  • Ventilating vehicles using the recirculate air setting. But this should be used sparingly, as it also circulates carbon dioxide that is breathed out.
  • planning routes carefully to avoid congested traffic areas and try to avoid tunnels.
  • rotating shifts so they are not always driving at the busiest times on the roads.
  • considering in-cabin filters, as they can reduce DEEE exposure.

Your vehicle

Think about the vehicle you are driving. Did you know?

  • Petrol vehicles use more fuel than diesel and produce more carbon dioxide but less-toxic emissions.
  • In the European Union, Euro 5 and 6 diesel vehicles are required to have a diesel particulate filter, which reduces particulate emissions by up to 90 per cent. Other countries have similar standards.
  • Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and all-electric vehicles (EVs) typically produce lower exhaust emissions than conventional vehicles or no exhaust emissions at all.
  • Regular maintenance of your vehicle is important in keeping dangerous emissions low.

What workers in vehicle workshops and other static workplaces can do

Workers can protect and minimise their exposure to DEEEs by:

  • turning off engines if not needed. This stops the production of DEEEs
  • using local exhaust ventilation. Tailpipe exhaust extraction systems are used to draw fumes away from the work area and filter them. Check before use to make sure they have been inspected properly and maintained
  • using workplace air extraction. Increasing air circulation in the workplace can help reduce exposure to DEEEs. This can be done by using installed air vents in the walls and ceiling, or even by keeping doors and windows open in your workplace
  • wearing a mask. For some jobs, you’ll need to wear a mask. Make sure it’s an FFP3-standard mask (European standard EN149:2001 or country equivalent) or a powered air-fed hood.
  • getting trained. Understand the dangers of exposure to DEEEs, and when and how to eliminate them. Use controls and protective equipment.