Diesel exhaust emissions are a mixture of gases, vapours, liquid aerosols and particles. The fumes contain the products of combustion which include:

  • aldehydes
  • carbon / soot
  • carbon monoxide
  • nitrogen
  • nitrogen oxide
  • polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
  • sulphur oxide

The quantity and composition of the diesel engine emissions depends on the:

  • quality of the fuel used
  • type of engine
  • state of the tuning
  • fuel pump setting
  • engine temperature
  • maintenance of the engine and the workload demand on the machine

Where could exposure to diesel fumes occur?

Exposure to fumes in the workplace may occur where diesel operated heavy vehicles are being used, or in high use work areas where vehicles may be arriving or leaving regularly such as car parks, depots or toll booths. Exposure is also common in construction sites and garages as diesel-operated machinery may be stationary while being used.

Diesel fumes impact on health

Inhaling fumes can have a serious impact on an individual’s health as in the short-term it can cause eye irritations and injury to the respiratory tract. However, prolonged exposure to emissions, particularly any blue or black smoke, may result in coughing, chestiness and breathlessness. There is growing research to suggest that repeated exposure to diesel emissions over a period of 20 years or so could also increase the risk of lung cancer. It is important to note that exposure to petrol engines does not carry the same level of risk.

Duty of care

Employers have a duty to assess the risk that diesel emissions may have on their employees’ health and to take the necessary steps to prevent, or adequately control, the exposure in the workplace. Control measures for fumes could include suitable extraction fans, ventilation, filters, catalytic converters, altering working methods to reduce exposure and the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE). Employers are also under a duty to train and appropriately warn staff of the potential work hazard.

It should be noted that in addition to the respiratory risk of fumes that cold diesel can also have an adverse impact upon an individual’s health as diesel fuel can also cause dermatitis.

Contact us

If you or a loved one has suffered as a result of working with diesel or the fumes emitted and consider your illness to be the fault of another please contact our Industrial Disease lawyers to discuss the potential of bringing a diesel related compensation claim by calling us on Freephone: 0808 164 0808 for a FREE, no-obligation chat. Alternatively, you can complete the request a call back form and we will call you.