Hazard Alert Issued for Diesel Particlulate Matter-October 2013

Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety 

October 2013

IN THIS ISSUE: Hazard Alert Issued for Diesel Particulate Matter

Diesel engines found in heavy equipment and machinery are used in mining, transportation, construction, manufacturing, as well as other industries. Unlike internal combustion engines that create carbon monoxide, diesel engines produce an exhaust that contains gases and small particles composed primarily of elemental carbon with organic carbon adhered to the surfaces. These particles are designated as diesel particulate matter (DPM).

In recent years, increased concern about worker exposure to DPM has emerged. Short-term exposure to diesel exhaust can cause headache, dizziness, and eye, nose, and throat irritation. Long-term exposure can increase the risk of cardiovascular, cardiopulmonary, respiratory disease, and lung cancer. In June, 2012, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified diesel engine exhaust a human carcinogen associated with increased lung cancer risk.

Due to the greater use of diesel equipment in confined areas in mining, the Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) has created a specific standard for DPM. According to MSHA, a miner’s exposure to DPM must not exceed 160 µg/m3 of total carbon when measured as an eight-hour time-weighted average. Unfortunately, OSHA has not developed a similar standard, but relies on the Permissible Exposure Limits for components of diesel exhaust, such as carbon monoxide, nitric oxide, and nitrogen dioxide, which may be indicators of the presence of DPM.

Recently, MSHA and OSHA issued a Hazard Alert that can apply to all industries that use heavy diesel equipment. The alert lists engineering and administrative controls that can effectively limit the hazard from DPM:

  1. Perform routine preventive maintenance of diesel engines to minimize emissions. 
  2. Install engine exhaust filters, cleaner burning engines, and/or diesel oxidation catalysts.
  3. Use special fuels or fuel additives (e.g., biodiesel).
  4. Provide equipment cabs with filtered air. 
  5. Install or upgrade main or auxiliary ventilation systems, such as tailpipe or stack exhaust vents to capture and remove emissions in maintenance shops or other indoor locations.
  6. Limit speeds and use one-way travel routes to minimize traffic congestion.
  7. Prohibit and/or restrict unnecessary idling or lugging of engines.
  8. Restrict the amount of diesel-powered equipment and total engine horsepower operating in a given area and ensure that the number of vehicles operating in an area does not exceed the capacity of the ventilation system.
  9. Designate areas that are off-limits for diesel engine operation and/or personnel travel.

For more information on this topic and to discuss your company’s safety and industrial hygiene needs call OccuSafe at (214) 662-6005 or contact us at occusafe@occusafeinc.com

OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate and control hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health.   OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.

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