Vehicle exhaust emissions

Vehicle exhaust fumes can irritate the eyes and respiratory tract, and are a risk to health by breathing in. Carbon-fuelled engine fumes contain carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas. Prolonged exposure to diesel fumes, especially blue or black smoke, may lead to coughing and breathlessness. Long-term repeated exposure to diesel fumes over a period of about 20 years may increase the risk of lung cancer.

Ventilated workplace using tail pipe extraction
Tail pipe extraction

Keep the workplace well ventilated. Connect an exhaust gas scavenger system to the vehicle tailpipe when static running, particularly when working in a vehicle inspection pit. It should ventilate to a safe place in the open air – where fume will not be drawn back into the workshop or affect other premises or people nearby. Maintain couplings and flexible connections in good condition to prevent leaks. You should not rely on vehicle access doors being left open to provide ventilation as in winter these will be kept closed. Use the e-COSHH Essentials guidance sheets to reduce exposure.

Exhaust fumes can quickly reach harmful concentrations, particularly from cold or intermittently run engines (when run indoors without exhaust ventilation). Don't rely on catalytic converters to run engines safely indoors. They are less effective when exhaust gases are relatively cool, eg from vehicles idling for long periods or used intermittently for short periods. Catalytic converters do not remove toxic oxides of nitrogen.

Diesel Engine Exhaust Emissions (DEEEs)

DEEEs contain known carcinogenic substances and, therefore, exposure to these fumes must be prevented or controlled. HSE Guidance Note HSG187 provides examples of good practice for controlling exposure in specific situations including activities in MVR premises. It is important that this guidance is followed and that controls (for example, vehicle tailpipe extraction) are provided and used. Additionally, all organisational controls to reduce the period of exposure and the number of persons exposed should be followed. It is always better to avoid exposure to DEEEs if at all possible. 

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Updated 2024-05-13