Safety agency helps trucking manage risks of diesel exhaust exposure

New guide and video outline dangers of diesel exhaust and steps to minimise exposure.

Safety agency helps trucking manage risks of diesel exhaust exposure
Most of the 1.2 million workers in Australia exposed to diesel exhaust are in the heavy vehicle industry.


Diesel exhaust exposure is an unavoidable workplace hazard for people working in the trucking industry, but there is help at hand for companies to manage the risk it poses.

Safe Work Australia has released a new guide and accompanying video on the dangers of diesel exhaust fumes and steps that can be taken to protect employees.

Safe Work Australia says about 1.2 million workers in Australia were exposed to diesel exhaust in 2011, and the majority of those were working in the heavy vehicle sector.

The agency says short-term exposure can cause eye, nose, throat and lung irritation or even suffocation. Long-term exposure can worsen allergies, increase the risk of heart and lung disease and increase the risk of lung cancer.

"Safe Work Australia’s guidance material provides information on how to manage risks associated with exposure to diesel exhaust in the workplace," Safe Work Australia CEO Michelle Baxter says.

The major source of workplace exposure to diesel exhaust is from heavy vehicles that use diesel like trucks, buses, trains, tractors, ships, bulldozers and fork lift trucks.

"Exposure can be higher for those working in enclosed, poorly ventilated areas where the concentration of exhaust fumes can build up, like in vehicle repair workshops, tunnels, partially covered roadways and walkways," Baxter says.

"Safe Work Australia’s guidance material includes steps that should be taken in the workplace to eliminate or reduce exposure to diesel exhaust."

The guide says steps that should be taken include risk assessments, isolating hazards, keeping staff informed and providing training, and implementing engineering controls such as ventilation systems.

"You must consult your workers and their health and safety representatives (if any) when deciding how to manage the risks of diesel exhaust in the workplace," the guide states.

It also lists the people who have responsibility for minimising diesel exhaust exposure in the workplace, namely business owners, vehicle designers and manufacturers, company directors and workers.

"A person conducting a business or undertaking has the primary duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, workers and other people are not exposed to health and safety risks arising from the business or undertaking," the guide says.

"This duty includes eliminating exposure to diesel exhaust, so far as is reasonably practicable, for example by using alternative power sources. If it is not reasonably practicable to do so, then risks must be minimised, so far as is reasonably practicable."


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