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The Personal Protective Technology Program at NIOSH: Reviews of Research Programs of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
caused by external factors outside the control of the program. The PPT Program has demonstrated in the case of standards setting for CBRN respirators that given the resources and the mandate, it can move rapidly and effectively to address highly complex needs.
In the evidence package provided to the committee and in subsequent discussions with NIOSH staff, the committee learned about the process by which the PPT Program’s research priorities are determined and decisions are made about participation in standards-setting efforts. For the certification process, NIOSH is bound by federal mandate to perform respirator certification as specifically laid out in the Code of Federal Regulations. NIOSH, through the PPT Program, can and does take the initiative to update the certification requirements to adapt to new technologies; however, this continues to be a lengthy endeavor and increased efforts are needed to expedite revisions to the regulations (see Chapter 2). Further, increased website information on the progress of each modification in the federal rule-making process would help open the process and make it more transparent.
The PPT Program sets its research and other institutional priorities through an ongoing strategic planning process that culminates in an annual planning summit attended by the governance team comprised of key PPT Program managers. The governance team also meets periodically throughout the year to provide input into major decisions about emerging issues. The goals of the summit meeting are to conduct program assessments, identify priorities, and formulate the PPT Program budget for the coming year. This process began in 2006 as a National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL) planning summit and expanded in 2008 to include input from the broader PPT Program. The committee urges continued efforts in future planning to systematically consider the range of research gaps relevant to the many types of protective equipment and technologies.
As part of its strategic planning process, the PPT Program places an emphasis on obtaining input via stakeholder meetings held throughout the year with manufacturers, workers, researchers, regulatory personnel, and others (see Box 2-1). Most recently, the PPT Program held a public stakeholder meeting on March 6, 2008. The PPT Program has been the sole or joint sponsor of a number of PPT-related conferences, such as the 2005 conference Advanced Personal Protective Equipment:Challenges in Protecting First Responders. These conferences highlight new research and products and are an important input into development efforts. Results of intramural and extramural research also provide input to the process as do feedback and interactions with the many collaborating partner organizations and agencies.
On its website, NIOSH identifies the following emerging issues as top priorities for the PPT Program’s efforts to provide effective NIOSH-certified respiratory protection equipment for all workers: CBRN protections, pandemic influenza preparedness, mine-related research, and nanotechnology (NIOSH, 2007).