Combustion Engine Emissions Management in Enclosed Workspaces
May 11, 2021
A number of red trucks parked side by side

Combustion engine emissions pose a serious health risk if they are not properly controlled. A program run by SAFE Work Manitoba, in conjunction with RPM, monitored combustion engine emissions (mostly gas and diesel sources) at 20 locations around Winnipeg over the course of a year. It has come to an end with participating companies calling it a success.

“Worker exposures to engine emissions can pose a real challenge for those in the logistics sector,” said Michael Boileau, Prevention Consultant at SAFE Work Manitoba. “When we approached RPM about having their clients participate in the program, there was no hesitation, which speaks volumes about their commitment to safety and health.”

Emissions monitoring occurred once every two weeks over the course of a year for each participating company. The frequency and duration of the monitoring period were chosen as the right balance to observe the seasonal environmental effects and any variation in production over time. Consistency is important, so the same five workers were monitored throughout the course of the program.

At the start of the shift, the workers were outfitted with a Drager X-am 5600 reader that monitored for nitrogen dioxide, nitric oxide, hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. Readings were collected at the end of their shift. “The monitor is one of the smallest and lightest multi-gas detectors on the market − it’s roughly the size of a small TV remote,” explained Michael.

Monitoring only goes so far. There also needs to be a willingness to make sensible, positive change. The monitoring program allows a unique look into a worker’s chemical exposures, allowing a company to make educated decisions about what works best.

“A culture of safety means that all workplace risks have been assessed, and programs and standard operating processes are in place to eliminate or control hazards so that workers are able to perform required tasks without harm to themselves, others or the environment,” said Darrin Fiske of Kleysen Group Ltd., one of the participants in the engine emissions program.

The program was designed to minimize any disruption to operations and provide answers that are typically challenging to find, Darrin added. “Participating with SAFE Work Manitoba in this program was beneficial to all involved. The company was provided with a method to assess emissions risks, and workers learned about the atmosphere in which they spend the majority of their workday. It is reassuring to know that a potential risk is effectively being controlled.”

SAFE Work Manitoba noted that as members of RPM, there would be no additional charge for participating companies.

Darrin said “we highly recommend that all companies with commercial vehicles understand exposure to engine emissions, and that especially those with maintenance facilities, participate in an engine emissions monitoring program. Performing the exercise with SAFE Work Manitoba was efficient and effective, and the price was right!”

For companies looking to reduce harmful emissions, Michael offers these three tips:

Limit your idle time inside the facility. The less vehicle exhaust that exists in a given location,
the less hard your exhaust control systems need to work. Even 30 seconds of idle time can create a significant amount of exhaust that mechanical control measures will struggle to expunge for some time. This matter compounds if more vehicles enter the shop.
Open outside bay doors when possible. When open and with good airflow, outside bay doors can be the single most effective way to exchange the air in your facility.
Use existing control measures. When used effectively, direct exhaust capture devices, such as flexible snorkel tubes that attach to a vehicle’s exhaust pipe and draw the exhaust away, have been found to be the most effective at lowering exhaust concentrations in workshops. Doing this in the fall and winter means general exhaust fans don’t need to work as hard, in turn, lowering heating costs during months when the outside bay doors are closed.