ardous exposures in the workplace can be estimated based on knowledge about the exposure; this information can be used to categorize PPT.
Throughout the report the committee documents a wide range of approaches to PPT conformity assessment and the varied nature of government agency involvement in these processes. The role of federal agencies ranged from an all-encompassing role in each phase of conformity assessment (e.g., respirators) to more specific roles such as standardized labeling (e.g., Noise Reduction Rating labels for hearing protection devices). Other roles for federal agencies include accrediting testing laboratories or specifying accreditation organizations. For some products, the government agency acts as the certifying organization. A unique government role in a voluntary third-party conformity assessment program is evidenced by the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Program, through which the Department of Justice provides a financial incentive through matching grants to law enforcement agencies to purchase compliant body armor. Government agencies also play key roles in the research needed to support standards development and conformity assessment processes, including the development and assessment of potential test methods. Health surveillance also can be facilitated through the work of federal, state, or local agencies.
The committee emphasizes that consistency in the level of rigor required for conformity assessment of PPT products used for tasks with comparable risks is a priority. Therefore, the first step is to establish a framework that will categorize similar products based on the level of risk (low, medium, or high) to the health or safety of the worker that could result from failure of the product (equivalent to not using PPT), while also considering feasibility, cost, and other pragmatic factors described in Chapter 5 (e.g., cost of conformance, impediments to innovation, competition, comfort, durability, globalization, risk to manufacturer’s reputation due to poor product quality and/or product failure). Conformity assessment requirements would be detailed for each category of products in the framework. Efforts will be needed to identify the gaps and inconsistencies in current approaches for specific types of PPT, particularly for those in the medium- and high-risk categories. Regulations mandating that PPT products used in the workplace adhere to conformity assessment and certification processes will be critical to ensuring that more rigorous product testing and audit requirements are met. An increased role for third-party testing and conformity assessment is recommended for many types of PPT because of the value of independent assessments in increasing the rigor of the process. As noted throughout