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 OSHA standards for general industry and maritime.