For those working at Pinssar – eliminating DPM exposure is more than a job.

After working for Pinssar for more than 5 years, travelling all over the world talking with and engaging our customers, peak bodies, and regulators, I must say, I’m now finally confident progressive companies are no longer putting profits before their health and safety obligations.

Ultimately, everyone at Pinssar is working to ensure Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM) exposures doesn’t become yet another social disaster like lead based paints, coal dust or asbestos have been in the recent past. We also believe individuals, governments, and global companies alike are now more focused on zero harm which is driving improved social license compliance – so we are probably past the tipping point regarding this concern.

Recognition of the threat DPM presents to workers has been escalating and can now been seen all around the world, from tightening regulatory frameworks to companies deploying this technology to interested parties delivering white papers at conferences as well as in the messaging of peak bodies. For example, the Australian Cancer Council, state on the front page of their website, that “diesel engine exhaust emissions exposure is the second most common cancer-causing agent (carcinogen) affecting workers in this country – only behind ultraviolet radiation exposure”. Accordingly, in the absence of sunlight, this therefore makes it the most common cancer-causing agent in the underground working environment.

Ultimately, if you work in construction or mining or any other confined space where diesel engine exhaust emissions (DEEE) or Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM), (depending on where you live), are present you should now be aware of the potential dangers of excessive DPM exposures to your health.

DPM are the particles of microscopic material found in the exhaust of diesel engines including fine carbon particles to which hazardous chemicals called poly aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) adhere. Because DPM can act like a gas and stay airborne for long periods of time, it can penetrate deep into peoples’ lungs.

The threat has clearly been articulated to the industry’s most at risk as defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO), via the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which declared DPM as carcinogenic to humans in 2012, placing it in the highest risk category, at the same risk level as asbestos.

Whilst globally the momentum to act in the best interests of workers has been steadily increasing, it has been regarded to be of significant enough concern in the UK, whereby the British Standard 6164 (known as BS 6164) was strengthened in October 2019, now providing a leading practice recommendation for continuous real-time DPM monitoring to be undertaken in all enclosed working environments associated with the construction industry. Clearly stating the dangers of DPM and the importance of monitoring it in continuous real-time by the construction industry.

This is now also having a significant impact on tunnelling and construction industries across the world as well as further influencing the mining sector.

The BS 6164 update states: “Exposure to diesel engine exhaust emissions should be controlled to prevent exposure to DPM. Primary control should be achieved by reducing emissions at source along with adequate ventilation. Until further guidance is issued by HSE, a limit value of 100 ug/m3 as a 15-minute time-weighted average, and measured as elemental carbon, should not be exceeded and “Real-time monitoring of DPM using light scattering technology should be considered, however appropriate correction factors should be applied to ensure differentiation between DPM and mineral dust along with aerosols in the tunnel environment. Analytical monitoring for DPM should be carried out in accordance with BS EN 14530. With a recommendation that “Continuous real time monitoring of DPM and dust should be undertaken as a continuous routine operation similarly to gaseous contaminants (see 16.1).”

Pinssar has been promoting the concept that robust, real-time continuous monitoring will enable responses to the presence of a group 1 carcinogen ensuring people are not being needlessly exposed whilst ensuring this world technology is no longer a “nice to have” but rather a “health and safety imperative.” It’s very encouraging to note that continuous real – time DPM monitoring has become an essential part of construction contracts. This will delivery benefits for existing workers and significantly improve outcomes for the next generation of workers entering the workforce.

At Pinssar we believe continuous DPM monitoring will save lives – there’s no denying it and ultimately, if the technology is globally available – why shouldn’t workers in harsh, confined spaces expect to be healthy and safe at home as well as work?

Pinssar has spent four years researching and developing a low-maintenance, durable DPM monitoring system, which is capable of measuring emissions in the critical sub-800 nanometre particle range, with key focus in the range most applicable to the particles in the post engine emissions or agglomeration phase in the ambient air working environment. The system was designed from the ground up to be a robust, ultra-low maintenance and practical tool to deliver DPM data to management in real time, via smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktops.

The real time capabilities of the technology mean protecting the health of workers is now technically achievable. We have secured global patents with 23 recognised innovations and use laser light scattering photometry technology (LLS). Pinssar has managed to overcome previous issues with the technology in underground environments, while delivering real-time usable data to an above-ground server.

Previous technologies offered random spot checks via handheld monitors or personal gravimetric systems, which require off-site processing and analysis of samples. Whilst they are important and form part of the picture, it has meant workers are being exposed to unsafe conditions for up to six weeks while conventional test results are processed. Or, if unsafe conditions occur spasmodically, traditional random testing drastically increases the risk of missing significant exposure events.

The Pinssar DPR systems are operational across 6 continents, predominately in tunnel construction and mining sites, with operators reporting greater confidence in working conditions and feeling reassured they are working in a monitored and safer environment.

And whilst technology and people’s perceptions constantly change it is important to recognise that there is a current perception in the industry that the introduction of electric vehicle technology will solve this problem, after travelling the globe this past 5 years, it’s still very fair to say diesel powered equipment will be the predominant energy source for mobile equipment used in mining and construction for many years to come – electric power will continue to develop and if that’s a win for workers, then we are fully supportive – Pinssar is here and we will continue working to protect every breath because ultimately everyone deserves to be safe and healthy at work – and together – we will save lives.

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