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Diesel fumes

Diesel engine exhaust emissions, diesel fumes for short, are a public health risk. Classified as a Class 1 carcinogenic agent by the World Health Organization, repeated exposure to diesel fumes over a prolonged period has been linked to:

  • increased incidence of asthma
  • decreased lung function and growth
  • increased risk of lung cancer
  • in high concentrations, death

People working where diesel-powered vehicles or machines are operated are often most at risk from repeated exposure. These could include some truck drivers, toll booth workers and garage workers, as well as those operating heavy machinery or working on the docks or railways.

All workers have the right to a safe working environment. This right is detailed in the Control of Substance Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH), which states all employers have a legal duty to prevent exposure to substances that can cause health issues.

There are a range of measures employers can use to prevent or control exposure to these fumes, from installing workplace air extraction fans and catalytic converters to implementing job rotation and providing protective equipment.

However, Unite the union has gathered evidence suggesting many employers are flouting these regulations when it comes to diesel fume exposure.

The government is dragging its heels on this important issue, dragging its heels on a high court demand to publish tougher draft measures to tackle illegal nitrogen dioxide levels. So, Unite has launched an emissions register. It only takes a couple of minutes and will help us map the level of diesel fume exposure at workplaces across the country.

Where it is clear that employers are ignoring their legal duties, we’ll use information from the register to force them to clean up their act. If it can be proved that workers’ health has been damaged due to diesel fume exposure, we will consider taking legal action on behalf of our members.

If you’ve been exposed to diesel fumes at work, visit Unite’s dedicated register and fill in your details*. You can also login to the website and visit our legal resources hub to download and print resources on diesel fumes.

If you have suffered significant symptoms caused by exposure to diesel emissions you should contact Unite’s legal service helpline without delay on 0800 709 007.

* Please note that by completing the form you are not registering a claim.