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Vehicle exhaust fumes can quickly reach harmful concentrations, particularly from cold or intermittently run engines (when running indoors without exhaust ventilation). Don’t rely on catalytic converters to run engines safely indoors. Many employers fail to take the appropriate steps to protect their workers from exposure levels or have the correct safety equipment (such as an exhaust extractor) to extract exhaust fumes correctly to reduce the risk of any illnesses.
Each time you inhale exhaust particles some of them get stuck in your lung tissue. The smaller the particles, the deeper they penetrate. This can cause both short-term and long-term health consequences, for example, coughing, difficulty breathing, asthma, chronic bronchitis, decreased lung capacity and at worst, cancer. We highly recommend that you invest in an effective exhaust extraction system to protect your employees.
Engines, whether they are in cars, buses, trucks or locomotives, produce exhaust fumes from the combustion of fuel. The exhaust fume that's produced is a mixture of organic and inorganic (POM/PAH) constituents (products of incomplete combustion). To put it simply, the exhaust is a complex mixture of gases, vapours, liquid aerosols and particulate substances.
DEEEs contain a complex mixture of over 40 substances, including gases, vapours, liquid aerosols and particulate substances that are listed as hazardous air pollutants. Fifteen of them are listed as carcinogenic to humans. Some chemical constituents found include:
Carbon monoxide (CO)
Carbon dioxide (CO²)
Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx)
Oxides of sulphur, e.g. Sulphur Dioxide (SO²)
Various hydrocarbons (HC)
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH’s)
DEEEs produce less carbon monoxide than petrol engines but more oxides of nitrogen, sulphur oxides, aldehydes and particulate matter.
DEEEs produce 20 to 100 times more particles than petrol engines meaning they are usually more visible to the human eye; this is because they contain over ten times more soot. The soot particulates in DEEEs have hundreds of organic substances adsorbed onto their surface, some of which are potentially more harmful to health than others. The soot content in the DEEEs varies from 60% to 80% depending on the fuel used and the type and condition of the engine. As these substances can be dangerous to a person's health, it's important to extra the toxic fumes with an exhaust extractor.
DEEEs Particle Size
Exhaust fumes can either appear as grey, black or blue smoke or they may be invisible. The human eye can see particles as small as 20 microns, whilst ninety percent of exhaust particles are smaller than 1 micron. In comparison, one strand of human hair is 70 microns thick, which puts the size of exhaust particulate matter into context.
New-generation diesel engines produce 15 to 35 times more small particles than old-generation diesel engines.
According to the World Health Organisation's Ambient (Outdoor) Air Pollution webpage, "Particles with a diameter of 10 microns or less, (≤ PM10) can penetrate and lodge deep inside the lungs, the even more health-damaging particles are those with a diameter of 2.5 microns or less, (≤ PM2.5). PM2.5 can penetrate the lung barrier and enter the blood system.
"Chronic exposure to particles contributes to the risk of developing cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, as well as of lung cancer."
How are Employees Exposed to DEEEs?
People are typically employees are exposed to emissions when working in confined spaces in which engines are running.
Occupations with potential exposure to emissions include:
Vehicle maintenance workers
Material-handling machine workers
Ultra-fine particles can remain airborne for a long time and are more easily transported by air currents and penetrate the alveoli in our lungs. Not only are the employees who are working with the engines exposed to the harmful emissions, but employees in other occupations in the business, such as office workers, are also exposed to the dangers unless exhaust extraction is carried out.
How Can Exhaust Fumes Harm Your Health?
As exhaust fume particles are so small, it misleads people in to believing that the new generation of engines is 'clean' and that there is no danger to their health. However, the new generation of 'clean' diesel engines with 'invisible' emissions have contributed to worsening this problem.
Workers inhale airborne DEEE particles every day, they enter our respiratory system and depending on the particle size, can enter the bloodstream. This means they can have adverse health effects in both the short and the long term and potentially can cause cancer in humans. Extraction hoses are essential products for eliminating the risk of breathing in toxic fumes.
The World Health Organisation (WHO)'s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans: Diesel and Gasoline Engine Exhaust and Some Nitroarene (Volume 105) concluded that: "There was sufficient evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of diesel exhaust." They found that: "Diesel exhaust is a cause of lung cancer (sufficient evidence) and also noted a positive association (limited evidence) with an increased risk of bladder cancer (Group 1)." Finally, they also concluded that: "Petrol exhaust was possibly carcinogenic to humans."
In HSE HSG261: Health and Safety in Motor Vehicle Repair and Associated Industriesguidance, it states that exposure to DEEEs are: "A risk to health if you breathe them in". Exhaust fumes irritate the eyes and respiratory tract and: "Prolonged exposure to diesel fumes, especially blue or black smoke, may lead to coughing and breathlessness." Long-term exposure to DEEEs may increase the risk of cancer.
In addition, it's important to remember that exhaust fumes contain carbon monoxide which is a poisonous gas.
By law, employers should assess the risk of people being affected by diesel fumes, and then work to either stop exposure or reduce it with suitable control measures, such as exhaust extraction. However, there are no current Workplace Exposure Limits for DEEEs.
We Have the Right Vehicle Exhaust Fume Extraction Solution for Your Business...
Above all, it is important is to deal with the problem at the source. Using a roof-mounted ventilation system for a confined space is most often useless because people working in the space still inhale the polluted air.
The most economical solution is a vehicle exhaust extraction system. But in many cases, such a system is either impossible or impractical to use. Examples of such cases might be when you need to move vehicles in confined spaces or when it's logistically and/or economically impossible to use an exhaust extractor.
What Do The HSE Recommend?
HSE's OC 292/2: Diesel Engine Exhaust Emissions guidance explains how there are two main types of suitable engineering controls for motor vehicle repair (MVR) workshops, which include either tailpipe engine exhaust filters and local exhaust ventilation (LEV). Whilst in HSE HSG261 guidance, it advises that LEV is used wherever possible, particularly in confined locations.
Essential Elements of COSHH
The legal requirements require employers to complete regular COSHH risk assessments. Regulation 7 first requires employers to make all conscious efforts to follow the COSHH hierarchical approach. The hierarchal approach recommends that substances should be substituted from the process to either eliminate or reduce the risk of exposure. However, if elimination or substitutions can't be avoided, control measures, such as engineering controls should be implemented to control the risk.
COSHH regulations place the duty of care on employers to ensure employees (and other people in a workplace) who may be exposed to specific substances are protected with safe exhaust extraction systems. To find out more about the necessary steps to take to ensure your workplace complies with the COSHH Regulations, read our article, The 7 Essential Elements of COSHH [Infographic].
How to Control Exhaust Fume Exposure
Once a formal risk COSHH assessment has been completed, prevention of fume exposure should be the first objective. Fume can easily be eliminated from the workplace with personal protective equipment and suitable engineering controls.
In the majority of cases, the most effective method of extracting airborne substances, such as fume is to capture at-source with an exhaust extractor. We always recommended at-source exhaust extraction and depending on the working processes undertaken. This prevents fume and gases from dispersing into the broader working environment because of cross draughts and air movements, which can reduce the LEV system's efficiency.
The HSE request you to only employ competent experienced specialist LEV trained companies when making these important decisions. Specifying an appropriate system has many facets including, the products encountered, the quantity and allowed exposure to that contaminant, airflow rates required against WELs (Workplace Exposure Limits).
Checklist to Help You to Choose the Right LEV Supplier
If you’re in the market for a new Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) system, it can be a tough decision to decide which is the best LEV solutions provider to choose. We want to help, so we’ve assembled a checklist (and article) to help guide you to select the right LEV supplier for your business and requirements. Visit our article on How to Choose a Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) Supplier and download the checklist.
Learn How We helped Businesses Like Yours
To find out more about the latest LEV installations we've been working on, check out our Case Studies section.
Request your FREE LEV Site Assessment Today!
We'll call to arrange a convenient time and date to visit your site. We'll analyse your working processes, assess the substances used and the contaminants generated. We'll work out how best to control the dust and fume in a way that's in line with your COSHH risk assessment. Next, we'll design you a comprehensive LEV system that adheres to HSG258 guidance and send this you to via email.
We'll do all this to ensure we fully understand your exhaust extraction requirements and help you to provide a pollution-free workplace!
This is an amazing service we do for thousands of businesses throughout the UK and Ireland every year. We work with such a wide variety of industries, from manufacturing, industrial, woodworking, pharmaceutical and automotive workshops to schools, colleges and military establishments.
Request your FREE, no-obligation LEV site assessment today!
Auto Extract Systems is the UK’s leading LEV company. Over the last 20 years, we've helped thousands of businesses create dust and fume free workplaces.
As experts in all things LEV, we can help your business become COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) Regulation 2002 compliant with a tailored LEV solution. We provide comprehensive design, installation, maintenance and certification services across a range of industry sectors. Find out more about us here.
Industry processes we can add value to:
Passenger Car Workshops
Commercial Vehicle Workshops
MOT Test Centres
Airport Fire Stations
Truck and Bus Workshops
Police Transport Workshops
Ambulance Transport Workshops
Hazardous Area Response Teams (HART) Centres
Car Manufacturing Plants
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Request My FREE Site Assessment
We'll call to arrange a convenient time and date to visit your site. We'll analyse your working processes, assess the substances used and the contaminants generated. We'll workout how best to control the dust and fume in a way that's in line with your COSHH risk assessment.