Managing Diesel Particulate Matter: Control Strategies and Emission Reduction

10/05/2024by admin0Read: 7 minutes

In a recent Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) review conducted by Safe Work Australia, the WHS ministers have acknowledged that exposure to diesel particulate matter harms workers’ health. They have recommended adding a workplace exposure standard for diesel particulate matter, a TWA of 15 µg REC/m3 for DPM from any diesel engine.

Furthermore, the proposed TWA is to be applied in conjunction with the WES for other components of DEE, such as nitrogen dioxide, to ensure that the risk of health effects from the mixture as a whole is adequately controlled.

For those unaware, there is no standard for workplace exposure to diesel particulate matter. Hence, the proposed standard seems promising to curb and manage exposure to diesel particulate matter and safeguard the health of workers handling it.

However, others, like silica dust, coal dust, asbestos, lead etc., have workplace exposure standards in place for industries to adhere to.

This blog will discuss the importance of safely handling diesel particulate matter, control strategies and emission reduction techniques.

Diesel Particulate Matter

Diesel particulate matter (DPM) is a product of the combustion of fuel in diesel engines or generators, which is then expelled through the exhaust system. These minuscule carbon particles are less than 1 micrometre in diameter, enabling them to penetrate deep into the lungs.

Importance of Safely Handling Diesel Particulate Matter

It is essential to prioritise worker safety when handling Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM), as it can cause severe health issues. DPM consists of tiny particles that can cause respiratory irritation and even lung cancer if breathed in for extended periods.

Monitoring personal exposure to DPM is crucial to guarantee safety, particularly in enclosed spaces or underground mines.

The Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists (AIOH) has established guidelines to regulate worker exposure to DPM levels, which aim to minimise health risks and provide an achievable best practice level for industry and government. By following these guidelines, a safe and healthy work environment can be ensured for all employees.

Read here: The Importance of Diesel Particulate Monitoring: Ensuring Air Quality Standards

Control Strategies to Check Exposure to Diesel Particulate Matter 

The control strategies to reduce exposure to diesel particulate monitoring include implementing engineering and administrative controls and other measures that are described below:

1) Engineering Controls

The best way to minimise worker exposure to DE/DPM is through engineering controls.

There might be instances where it is essential to have multiple controls implemented.

Below given are some examples:

  1. Regularly performing preventive maintenance on diesel engines is crucial in reducing emissions.
  2. Installing exhaust filters for engines,
  3. Installing cleaner burning engines,
  4. Installing diesel oxidation catalysts,
  5. Making use of special fuels or fuel additives (e.g., biodiesel),
  6. Providing filtered air to equipment cabs, and
  7. Upgrading or installing primary or auxiliary ventilation systems, like tailpipe or stack exhaust vents, to capture and remove emissions in maintenance shops or other indoor locations.

2) Administrative Controls

Ensuring employees’ safety in the workplace is crucial, and one efficient method to achieve this is through implementing administrative controls. These controls involve modifying work practices to prevent or reduce potential hazards, which is essential to maintaining a safe and secure working environment.

The various examples include:

  1. Controlling speeds and using one-way travel routes to reduce traffic congestion,
  2. Prohibiting and restricting unnecessary idling or lugging of engines,
  3. Restricting the amount of diesel-powered Equipment and total engine horsepower operating in each area and ensuring the number of vehicles operating in the vicinity of a site is less than the ventilation system’s capacity, and
  4. Specify zones where diesel engines or personnel are not allowed to operate or travel.

There is no WHS (Work Health and Safety) standard for Diesel Particulate matter, although Safe Work Australia has proposed one.

Find the Root Cause of the Harm

To ensure employee safety:

1) Identify areas where diesel exposure is possible and monitor tasks.

2) Inspect Equipment regularly for smoke emissions and damage.

3) Ask employees about any diesel-related issues and check incident records for symptoms of exposure.

3) Risk Assessment 

Assessing workplace risks is crucial. Performing a comprehensive risk assessment can aid in recognising the appropriate actions to manage the risk and evaluate the priority level for their implementation. Consider the severity and likelihood of harm, along with potential consequences. Seek help from a professional for expert evaluation.

4) Elimination and Substitution 

Organisations should consider this alternative if dangers associated with diesel emissions can be removed, for as, by switching diesel-powered plants to ones driven by electricity, propane, compressed natural gas, or gasoline. Risks posed by the usage of alternate power sources must be taken into account and managed. Consider the following choices in the order below to reduce risks as much as is practical if this is not a reasonable option.

1) Isolating the Hazard

Separating the employees from the diesel exhaust is necessary. For instance, isolating the portion of the workshop where diesel engines are functioning from the rest of the workshop, putting the worker in a sealed, air-conditioned booth, providing positive pressure ventilation, and altering the workplace architecture.

2) Using Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE)

Respiratory protection equipment (RPE) should only be utilised as a last option because exposure to diesel exhaust is best managed at the source or through other methods, as previously mentioned.

In some circumstances, the use of RPE may be suitable; however, if you are unsure, you should get guidance from someone knowledgeable, such as an occupational hygienist.

Particular respirators must be used to avoid exposure to diesel emissions.

Additionally, no harmful gases are protected by air-purifying respirators.

Proper storage, maintenance, and cleaning of respiratory Equipment are crucial. Workers should receive training and a fit test to use a respirator properly.

A combination of the controls mentioned above can be used if a single control is insufficient to minimise the risks.

If one of the measures is insufficient to reduce the risks, a combination of the controls listed above may be implemented.

3) Training and Guidance for Workers

Workers should be educated about the health risks of exposure to diesel exhaust emissions and how to properly apply control measures. They must also get training, guidance, and supervision in these areas. Workers should be equipped with the knowledge, training, and instruction to recognise obvious deterioration in the controls being used (such as poor engine maintenance, damage to extraction equipment, or inadequate general ventilation), so they can lodge a report to the appropriate parties who will then take the necessary action to remedy the situation.

4) Reducing Incidental Exposure to Diesel Particulate Matter

The following risk management methods should be taken into consideration to reduce worker exposure to diesel exhaust in circumstances where control over the source of the exhaust may not be achievable or accidental exposure:

1. General Workers 
  1. Where applicable close walkways or minimise public access to prevent exposure to diesel-powered engines.
  2. Use portable extraction units to move diesel exhaust away from workers in areas like tunnels or covered roadways/walkways.
  3. Workers should be trained on hazards associated with diesel engines and methods to minimise diesel exhaust exposure in the workplace, including the correct use of RPE if needed.
2. Booth Attendants 

Booths that lack mechanical ventilation should be kept in places with sufficient natural ventilation and convenient vehicular access.

Use positive pressure ventilation to stop diesel emissions from entering work areas like toll booths.

To reduce the chance of diesel exhaust reaching the work area, use automated windows in air-conditioned toll booths and drive-through takeout food booths.

Standards to Protect Miners from DE/DPM Exposure

Australia’s first mining region to adopt an exposure standard for diesel particulate matter was NSW.

On February 1, 2021, the exposure threshold of 0.1 mg/m3 for elemental carbon, a measure of diesel particulate matter, went into effect.

NIOSH method 5040 is used for the determination of elemental carbon.

Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017 clause 50 is used for performing air monitoring to analyse cover diesel particulate matter content present in the workplace surroundings.

Guideline for the management of diesel engine pollutants in underground environments (2008) – is released by NSW and provides guidelines for mine operators on managing diesel exhaust exposure.

Operators of mines and petroleum sites must abide by the rules set out in section 41 (1) (b) of the Work Health and Safety (Mines and Petroleum Sites) Regulation 2022 (2022 Regulation).

Ensuring Emissions of carbon dioxide, diesel particulate matter, and dust do not exceed the criteria:

(1) The operator of a mine or petroleum site is required to:

(a) reduce the exposure of people at the mine or petroleum site to dust and diesel particulate matter, to the extent reasonably possible.

(b) make that nobody working at a mine or petroleum site is exposed to airborne dust and diesel particulate matter concentrations that are greater than the following: –

(i) for respirable dust, 3 mg per cubic metre of air, or 1.5 mg per cubic metre of air for coal mines.

(ii) 10mg per cubic metre of air for inhalable dust.

(iii) for diesel particulate matter, 0.1 mg of sub-micron elemental carbon per cubic metre.

(2) Without restricting subsection (1), the underground coal mine operator is required to:

(a) reduce human exposure to carbon dioxide in the mine to the greatest extent reasonably practicable and

(b) ensure that no person in the mine is exposed to an 8-hour time-weighted average atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide that is greater than:

(i) For short-term exposure limits—30,000 parts per million, or

(ii) otherwise—12,500 parts per million.

(3) A concentration mentioned in paragraph (1) or (2) is subject to the Workplace Exposure Standards for Airborne Contaminants as if it were an exposure standard included in the document.

(4) The 8-hour time-weighted average has the same meaning in this section as it does in the Workplace Exposure Standards for Airborne Contaminants.

The definition of the short-term exposure limit in the workplace exposure standards for airborne contaminants is the same.

Control Measures for Mine Operators

The following methods mine operators should employ to control exposure to diesel particulate matter:

1) Identify Exposed areas


2) Controlling diesel exhaust emissions at the source.

  • utilising low-emission diesel engines and equipment.
  • utilising emission reduction technologies like particulate filters and catalysts.
  • utilising low-emission fuels and high-quality lubricants.
  • training workers on driving habits and their impact on emissions.


3) Controlling exposure to airborne diesel pollutants

  • requires effective ventilation techniques.
  • air-conditioned (filtered) operators’ cabins.
  • the restriction of diesel engines in high-risk regions.
  • minimising the number of diesel engines running simultaneously.
  • educating and training employees.
  • wearing the proper respiratory protection.
  • monitoring the atmosphere and ventilation in the workplace.


4) To guarantee adherence to the exposure limit and keep air concentrations as low as practically possible, risk control procedures are reviewed and monitored.


5) staying informed on cutting-edge technical advancements and best practice approaches.


6) Examine site procedures.


Anitech’s experienced Occupational Hygienists can help you manage exposure to Diesel Particulate Matter and suggest controls outlining the regulation. You can call us at 1300 802 163 or email us at sales@anitechgroup.com

For more information, stay tuned to the Anitech website.


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