Diesel fumes risk call spurs legal warning

By: Rob McKay

Managers urged to be mindful of broadly recognised health impacts

Diesel fumes risk call spurs legal warning
Diesel fumes are a health hazard


Australian trucking sector should do more to tackle health hazards associated with diesel fumes exposure, an Australian engineer warns, and transport legal experts indicate firms should be guided by their workplace health and safety policies when examining the issue.  

The Australian trucking industry could face a major occupational health threat due to long-term exposure to diesel fumes unless the industry became more tech-savvy, Mathers Hydraulics Technology (MHT) MD Norm Mathers warns.

Mathers, a hydraulic engineer and inventor, says despite many health studies linking long-term exposure to diesel fumes with serious health issues such as cancer and dementia, the industry continues to ignore the warnings.

In Europe, the European Commission has demanded direct action on reducing use in trucks and buses by 2025 as a result of these warnings and he believes Australia should follow suit.

Although world-leading technology to reduce diesel emissions exists in Australia, little has been done to make use of it.

"Exhaust chemical cleaning was introduced in the 2012 period, yet there was only limited industry response to reduce diesel use, despite the full knowledge that technology exists to reduce fumes which could make a monumental difference to the protection of the public, exposed workers and drivers’ health," Mathers says.

"It beggars the question, why?"

 Read about the Daimler response to the EU’s VECTO emissions initiative, here

Mathers states the Australian mining industry faces the same issue with no legal limit for exposure to diesel emissions.

Two of law firm Holding Redlich’s partners, Michael Selinger and Geoff Farnsworth, acknowledge that there may well be a workplace safety issue involved.

"For any workplace, it is important that detailed policies are put in place to mitigate risks that may arise in the course of employment," Selinger tells ATN.

"Failing to implement risk mitigation strategies and training workers in relation to the same may result in an employer breaching their primary duty to ensure workers and others are not exposed to health and safety risks arising from the workplace."

Farnsworth picks up on the mining aspect in concert with transport.

"In the mining and trucking industries, exposure to diesel exhaust from heavy vehicles and stationary power sources can have both acute and chronic health implications and it is important that direct and incidental exposure to these harmful fumes is minimised," he says.

Some countries have already commenced action to mitigate the long-term exposure to diesel fumes on their populations.

To enforce a more proactive and timely response from the trucking industry, the European Commission increased its target of 30 per cent CO2 reductions by 2030 from 20 per cent by 2025 and 35 per cent by 2030 on Class 8 heavy trucks and buses, he states.

Nine German cities including Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt have announced a ban on older diesel vehicles from being driven in the city centres, while India has banned ten-year old diesel trucks from its cities.

Mathers says he is echoing public sentiment when stating Europe is showing the way by enacting positive and practical solutions and Australia should introduce identical enforced legislation.

"Australia needs to change our emission targets to mirror that of the EU Commission," he adds.

"In order to achieve a 35 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030, it is impossible unless you can capture braking energy in trucks and buses.

"By definition, it has to be applied to buses, waste trucks, delivery trucks, Class 8 trucks as well as all underground and above ground mining machinery.

"Lastly, there needs to be a lot more research into the association between diesel emission exposure and coal dust which causes black lung and similar diseases."

MHT has developed a technology that reduces diesel emissions by turning engines off when idle and thereby reducing emissions significantly in heavy traffic conditions.


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