Diesel Fume Exposure Monitoring

Protect Employees From Diesel Fumes

Do you or your employees work with machines that produce diesel fuel? Are you protected from these harmful fumes?

Be aware of diesel engines when they are in use, especially where ventilation is poor, and follow your safe system of work.

Who is at risk from diesel fumes?

Bus, car and lorry maintenance engineers, professional bus drivers and lorry drivers, fork lift truck drivers and other warehouse workers, tractor drivers, miners and construction workers are just some examples of occupations that are exposed to diesel exhaust in the course of their work.

Breathing in diesel fume can harm your health. The emissions from diesel exhausts contain a cocktail of gases, such as vapours, mists and particles. Some parts which make up the fumes are fairly harmless, such as water, but other parts are hazardous.

Four Diesel engine exhaust emissions contain a complex mixture of gaseous and particulate substances. The latter arise from the incomplete combustion of fuel in a limited oxygen supply. The major components by mass are gases, particularly carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. The precise mixture depends on the type of engine, the fuel and whether the engine is starting up cold or running at normal temperature.

Two types of ill health effects are caused by diesel fume:

  • Irritation effects: These come on quite quickly and may cause coughing or watering eyes. Workers with pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)or asthma, may be particularly affected by lung irritation.


  • Long-term lung damage: Awareness of the long-term effects of diesel fume has increased in recent years. Exposure, usually over many years, can cause respiratory ill health including cancer.

Effects will depend on the amount of diesel fumes in the air and the length of exposure.

How can you protect employees?

There are two main ways you can protect employees:

  • Reduce the amount of fumes.
  • Ensure good ventilation.

Good ventilation is important: Running a diesel engine outdoors, where there is good natural ventilation, is safer than using the engine indoors. However, diesel fumes can build up when diesel engines are used in poorly ventilated spaces such as inside buildings, under canopies or during below ground construction.

Whenever these situations are likely to arise,  additional control measures such as building in air vents and extractor systems or using exhaust filters may be required, alongside other controls such as switching off engines when they are not in use.

Be aware of diesel engines when they are in use, especially where ventilation is poor and follow your safe system of work.

If any of the following are evident, you need to take action:

  • Look out for diesel engines blowing out smoke. Blue smoke can indicate a poor serviced engine.
  • White smoke may indicate condensation or a coolant leak
  • Watch out for a fume haze in the atmosphere.
  • Look out for heavy soot deposits. Black smoke indicates soot and a mechanical problem.
  • Complaints from workers being affected by fumes, such as irritation of the eyes or lungs, is a sign of the risk of harm.

The importance of COSHH risk assessments

Each year, thousands of workers fall ill due to hazardous substances that can cause lung disease, cancer, and skin disease. These diseases cost millions of pounds to businesses that would have to replace skilled workers, or worse, deal with civil claims.

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations require employers to take effective measures to control exposure and protect employee health.

Safety First’s occupational exposure monitoring

Exposure monitoring is needed for work with harmful substances, such as asbestos and lead may also be required as part of the COSHH risk assessments. Our specialist team is highly qualified in the different methods of monitoring exposure. No matter how complex the issue, Safety First can find the right sampling strategy for you.

Safety First is experienced in delivering a complete range of occupational exposure monitoring services to provide you with confirmation that your control measures are adequate and workplace exposure limits are not exceeded.

Contact our friendly team of experts to find out more about occupational exposure monitoring or any of our other services.


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