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Approaches for limiting workplace exposure to diesel exhaust

Many industries in Illinois rely on diesel-powered equipment and vehicles. Exhaust from diesel engines contains particulate matter that can pose both short- and long-term consequences to the respiratory health of workers. Short-term exposure to diesel exhaust irritates the eyes, nose and throat. Over the long term, exposed workers experience higher rates of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases such as lung cancer. Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has not set a standard regarding exposure to diesel particulate matter, the agency does provide employers with guidelines for reducing exposure.

Changes to work duties have the potential to protect workers. For example, the prevention of traffic congestion on busy work sites reduces the production of exhaust. Rules that restrict how long engines can idle present is another effective method. Workplaces could also impose limits on how many diesel engines can operate within a given area.

Engine maintenance and equipment upgrades contribute to exhaust reduction as well. Routine preventative engine maintenance improves fuel efficiency, and filters that clean particles from exhaust could be installed. Investments in new equipment with cleaner-burning engines also support the goal of protecting workers. Equipping machinery cabs with air filters presents another way to keep harmful particles out of workers' lungs.

Someone who develops a disease because of exposure to pollutants at work could qualify for benefits from workers' compensation insurance. To pursue these benefits for an occupational disease, a worker might want the representation of an attorney. Legal advice could empower a person whose employer denies responsibility for workplace health problems. An attorney might arrange for the worker to have an independent medical exam. That exam could provide evidence for an insurance claim to pay for medical care and lost income. In a disputed case, an attorney might file a lawsuit to challenge an insurer's denial of benefits.

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