Diesel exhaust and particulate matter is hazardous to workers

Today’s industrial workforce relies heavily upon equipment and machinery to complete important tasks. Many of these machines and conveyances use diesel engines, which often release toxic fumes into the air through their exhaust systems. If not controlled, these fumes can be hazardous to the health of workers as well as other people in the vicinity.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration has a lot to say about diesel exhaust and diesel particulate matter or DPM. OSHA describes these substances as soot particles containing ash, carbon, sulfates, silicates and metallic abrasion particles. Pennsylvania workers at particular risk of exposure to diesel matter include equipment operators, miners, oil and gas workers, vehicle maintenance workers and many others.

Some of the health hazards short-term exposure to DPMs and diesel exhaust can pose include mild conditions such as eye irritation, dizziness as well as irritation to the throat and nose. OSHA indicates that some of these more mild conditions can either disable or distract workers, increasing the risk to their health.

Diesel matter can also create more severe health conditions including lung cancer, respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease and cardiopulmonary disease. In fact, the risks are so great that the International Agency for Cancer research officially listed diesel exhaust and diesel particulate matter as known human carcinogens in June of 2012.

Exposure to diesel exhaust and particulate matter can be controlled or minimized with routine maintenance on diesel engines. Other preventative measures include using exhaust filters, using fuel additives, choosing cleaner burning engines and upgrading ventilation systems.

The takeaway here is that if employers or contractors take responsibility for the work environment they provide, it will likely result in minimal toxic exposure to dangerous diesel by-products. Those already suffering illness from exposure should consult with a local attorney to pursue workers’ compensation and other possible benefits.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, “Diesel Exhaust/Diesel Particulate Matter,” accessed Sep. 08, 2015

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