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Latest changes to BS 6164 diesel emissions monitoring in tunnelling

Wayne Hose, Business Development Manager at Pinssar

British Standard 6164 'Health and safety in tunnelling in the construction industry - Code of practice' was revised in late 2019, significantly impacting the tunneling and construction industries.  Importantly, and in addition, the British Standards apply to all Commonwealth countries, with impacts flowing through the United Kingdom to Australia, South Africa, Canada, New Zealand and India.

Amongst a list of changes, BS 6164 clearly states the dangers of Diesel Particulate Matter emissions and the importance of it being taken seriously. This decision to update BS 6164 came seven years after the dangers of diesel exhaust emissions were clearly defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and IARC (International Agency for Research into Cancer), when they declared it as carcinogenic to humans and placed it in the highest risk category and the same risk level as asbestos.  

So, whilst this update to BS 6164 has been received favourably by those who understand the health ramifications of unmanaged diesel exhaust emissions, recent discussions in the tunnelling construction world have shown there is uncertainty about how to best implement the recommendations.

Updated BS 6164 diesel emissions monitoring in tunnelling

The key changes to BS 6164 in relation to diesel emissions monitoring in tunneling are: 

“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”.

“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.

“Continuous real time monitoring should be undertaken – (see 16.1).”

Diesel emissions monitoring technology in tunnelling

Previously, technology was limited to random spot checks using handheld monitors or personal gravimetric systems.  The collected data then requires off-site processing and analysis of samples, meaning workers could be exposed to unsafe conditions for up to four weeks while conventional test results were processed.  If unsafe conditions occurred spasmodically throughout a project, traditional random testing normally undertaken every four weeks drastically increased the risk of missing significant DEEE/DPM exposure events.  

As per BS 6164, diesel engine exhaust emissions should be managed utilising a system of controls. The BS 6164 concluded the effectiveness of those controls can only be analysed and responded to when supported by continuous, real time data derived from a fixed location.  This constant and repeatable data trend validates the relevant controls and mitigating actions; random and spasmodic sampling is useful for understanding personal exposures, but simply cannot be relied upon in respect to the engineering and behavioural controls deployed over time.  Continuous real- time monitoring technology is now available to support the recommendations of BS 6164.  

Most importantly, this technology offers data driven insights to industry which can be leveraged for informed decision making for better health outcomes.

The revised BS 6164 'Health and safety in tunnelling in the construction industry - Code of practice' has served as a much-needed catalyst for addressing the shortfalls in protecting worker and community health against dangerous diesel engine exhaust emissions.  Companies globally who have adopted technology in accordance with the revised code of practice can now rest assured that they are doing everything they can to protect their people and progress their community projects safely.


About the author

Wayne Hose
Global Business Development Manager
[email protected]