Diesel engines provide power to many types of equipment used in a large number of industries, including transportation, mining, construction, agriculture, as well as many manufacturing operations. Occupations with potential exposure to DE/DPM include miners, construction workers, heavy equipment operators, bridge and tunnel workers, railroad workers, oil and gas workers, loading dock workers, truck drivers, material handling operators, farmworkers, long-shoring workers, and auto, truck and bus maintenance garage workers.
Diesel exhaust is a mixture of gases and particulates produced during the combustion of diesel fuel. The very small particles are known as diesel particulate matter (DPM), which consists primarily of solid elemental carbon (EC) cores with organic carbon (OC) compounds adhered to the surfaces. The organic carbon includes polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), some of which cause cancer when tested in animals. Workers exposed to diesel exhaust face the risk of health effects ranging from irritation of the eyes and nose, headaches and nausea, to respiratory disease and lung cancer.
OSHA has not established a standard for diesel exhaust as a unique hazard, however exposures to various components of diesel exhaust are addressed in specific standards for general industry and shipyard employment. This section highlights OSHA standards, Federal Registers (rules, proposed rules, and notices), directives (instructions for compliance officers), standard interpretations (official letters of interpretation of the standards), and other federal standards related to diesel exhaust. Twenty-five states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have OSHA-approved State Plans and have adopted their own standards and enforcement policies. For the most part, these States adopt standards that are identical to Federal OSHA. However, some States have adopted different standards applicable to this topic or may have different enforcement policies.
General Industry (29 CFR 1910)
Shipyard Employment (29 CFR 1915)
Note: These are NOT OSHA regulations. However, they do provide guidance from
their originating organizations related to worker protection.
Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)
- Part II Diesel Particulate Final Rules
- An Introduction (30 CFR)
- 30 CFR 7, Testing by applicant or third party
- Subpart E, Diesel engines intended for use in underground coal mines
- Subpart F, Diesel power packages intended for use in areas of underground coal mines where permissible electric equipment is required
- 30 CFR 36, Approval requirements for permissible mobile diesel-powered transportation equipment
- 30 CFR 70, Mandatory health standards -- Underground coal mines
- Subpart T, Diesel exhaust gas monitoring
- 30 CFR 75, Mandatory health standards underground coal mines (continued)
- Subpart T, Diesel-powered equipment
- Diesel Particulate Matter Exposure of Underground Metal and Nonmetal Miners. Federal Register Proposed Rule, Volume 64, Number 56, Pages 14200-14201, (1999, March 24). Also available as a 20 KB PDF, 2 pages. Helps workers become aware of increased diesel particulate matter (dpm) in underground mining.
- Approval, Exhaust Gas Monitoring, and Safety Requirements for the Use of Diesel-Powered Equipment in Underground Coal Mines. Federal Register Final Rule, Volume 61, Number 208, Pages 55411-55461, (1996, October 25). Discusses the use of diesel engines in underground coal mines.
- Information Regarding Diesel Regulations. Lists the Federal Regulations affected by the final rule which establishes new requirements for the approval of diesel engines and other components used in underground coal mines; requirements for monitoring of gaseous diesel exhaust emissions by coal mine operators; and safety standards for the use of diesel-powered equipment in underground coal mines.
- Mine Safety and Health At a Glance
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
The EPA is responsible for developing regulations that set emission standards for diesel vehicles and engines, as well as for diesel fuel. Though these are not directly related to occupational exposure, lowering emissions does lower potential occupational exposure.
- Diesel Exhaust in the United States [412 KB PDF, 4 pages]. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), EPA-420-F-03-022, (2003, June).
- Health Assessment Document for Diesel Engine Exhaust [9 MB PDF, 669 pages]. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Center for Environmental Assessment, (2002, May). Examined information regarding the possible health hazards associated with exposure to diesel engine exhaust (DE), which is a mixture of gases and particles.
- National Clean Diesel Campaign (NCDC). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Clean Diesel Campaign promotes clean air strategies by working with manufacturers, fleet operators, air quality professionals, environmental and community organizations, and state and local officials to reduce diesel emissions.
- NYCOSH Diesel Exhaust Fact Sheet [158 KB PDF, 3 pages].
- Chemical Sampling Information. OSHA. Presents, in concise form, data on a large number of chemical substances that may be encountered in industrial hygiene investigations. Basic reference for industrial hygienists engaged in OSHA field activity.
OSHA has developed and validated methods for use by the Salt Lake Technical Center (SLTC) laboratory. The following methods on the Partial List of Chemicals Associated with Diesel Exhaust page have been adopted by many laboratories for the analysis of chemical compounds.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
- Diesel Exhaust. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Mining Topic. Provides links to sources of information on a variety of topics relating to Diesel Exhaust.
- Diesel Aerosols and Gases in Underground Mines: Guide to Exposure Assessment and Control. US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 2012-101, (2011, October). A comprehensive guide to establish a program to curtail diesel particulate matter emissions, control pollutants after release in an underground mine environment and reduce exposures using administrative controls.
- Practical Ways to Reduce Exposure to Diesel Exhaust in Mining - A Toolbox. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Provides information shared at workshops about practical methods to reduce exposure to diesel exhaust in mining. This material is organized as a toolbox so it can be put to use directly by those working with diesel-powered equipment.
- NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 2005-149, (2007, September). Provides a physical description, exposure limits, measurement method, personal protection and sanitation, first aid, respirator recommendations, exposure routes, symptoms, target organs, and cancer sites.
Because diesel engines can operate for 20 to 30 years, millions of older, dirtier diesel engines are still in use. EPA offers many strategies and programs to help make these engines operate more cleanly and funding to help build diesel emission reduction programs that improve air quality and protect public health. EPA recommends a wide range of emission reduction strategies for diesel vehicles, vessels, locomotives, or equipment. These include:
Related Safety and Health Topics Pages
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