intermediate outcomes of the PPT Program relevant to each of the major objectives. The chapter concludes with an overall assessment and scoring of the impact of the PPT Program.
Determining the impact of the PPT Program1 is affected by a number of external and underlying factors. A prime underlying factor is the congressional mandate stipulating NIOSH’s responsibility to certify respirators. This chapter provides a more detailed discussion of the potential impacts of the certification mandate in providing the PPT Program with key oversight of the quality of respirators used in many U.S. worksites. The accompanying challenge, however, has been that respirator certification constitutes a significant percentage of the PPT Program’s budget. Further, the congressional requirements for respirator certification place this function within the federal regulatory framework, which involves extensive procedures. Therefore, all changes to respirator certification regulations must go through a long process of federal rule making including publication, comment, and revision. This process ensures transparency to the general public but is time-intensive, particularly for dealing with products where the technology is evolving rapidly.
The short duration of time since the inception of the PPT Program is a key external factor. Respirator certification has been conducted at NIOSH since 1972, and research and standards-setting efforts were occurring in other NIOSH divisions before being transferred to the National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL). However, NPPTL was not founded until 2001, and therefore at the time of the writing of this report, barely seven years have elapsed. Given that the initial budgets in the early years of the laboratory were needed, to a large extent, for renovating the facilities, there have been only a few years on which to base an evaluation of the impact of the PPT Program. Further, NIOSH initiated the cross-sector PPT Program (NPPTL plus other PPT-relevant efforts) in 2005; this happened so recently that the PPT Program is just now having the opportunity to move beyond the initial organizational stages.
Also important to recognize is the impact and relevance of global events to the use of PPT. The terrorist attacks of 2001, the mine disasters of 2006, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and the widespread concern about the potential for an influenza pandemic have all contributed to heightening the public’s awareness of PPT issues. These issues have all arisen amid the formative years of the PPT Program.