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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Determining the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours of people exposed to diesel exhaust at the workplace Pui, Mandy


Background: Diesel exhaust (DE) is a common exposure in Canadian workplaces. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified DE as being carcinogenic to humans in 2012. Health and safety agencies provide information about DE and the mitigation strategies that can be used to reduce the exposure of individuals. However, there is little known about the extent to which those potentially exposed in the workplace understand the risks of DE or have recently changed behaviours to minimize workplace exposure to DE. Objectives: To identify exposure-related knowledge, attitudes and behaviours of individuals occupationally exposed to diesel exhaust; to reveal strengths, knowledge gaps and misperceptions therein. Methods: A Mental Models approach was used to gather information about current scientific understanding of DE exposure hazards and the ways in which exposure can be reduced. Thirty individuals in British Columbia who were regularly exposed to occupational DE were interviewed. The audio was recorded, transcribed, grouped together, and examined to draw out themes around DE awareness, hazard assessment and risk reduction behaviours. These themes were then compared and contrasted with existing grey and research literature in order to reveal strengths, gaps and misperceptions regarding exposure to DE. Results: Study participants were aware and concerned about DE but had incomplete and sometimes incorrect understanding of exposure pathways, health effects, and effective strategies to reduce their exposures. The perceived likelihood of exposure to diesel exhaust was significantly greater compared to that of other work hazards (p<0.01), whereas the difference for their perceived severity of consequences was not significant. There was no universally perceived main source of information regarding DE, and participants generally distrusted sources of information based on their past experience with the source. Most of the actions that were taken to address DE exposure fell into the area of administrative controls such as being aware of sources of DE and avoiding these sources. Discussion: This study of the knowledge, attitude, and behaviour of those occupationally exposed to diesel exhaust found, most notably, that more education and training and the creation of a health effects inventory regarding diesel exhaust exposure were desired.

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