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Certifying Personal Protective Technologies: Improving Worker Safety
SCOPE OF THIS REPORT
In 2009, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) requested that the Institute of Medicine (IOM) convene an expert committee to assess the certification or conformity assessment mechanisms needed to ensure the efficacy and effectiveness1 of non-respirator PPT. The IOM committee was tasked with examining various approaches to conformity assessment and with making recommendations on conformity assessment processes for non-respirator PPT (Box 1-1). As part of its data-gathering efforts, the committee was asked to plan and conduct a public workshop to examine the conformity assessment approaches used for a range of products used for protection (e.g., bullet-proof vests, personal flotation devices) as well as to examine the benefits of certification to worker safety. The committee’s task also focused on PPT for healthcare workers during an influenza pandemic with the recognition of the broader implications for modifying conformity assessment processes for PPT.
The committee’s task did not focus on respirator certification because that is a well-established process codified in federal regulations and conducted by the NIOSH National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL). Additionally, the committee was not asked to examine the certification of personnel. Although PPT products are used by the general public in settings that range from hobbies to home repair and maintenance to protection against infectious disease, this report focuses on occupational use and does not specifically address PPT for use by the general public.
The committee held three meetings from January to July 2010. Two of those meetings included public sessions with input from many perspectives, including NIOSH staff, other federal agency staff, PPT manufacturers, professional association and labor union representatives, standards-setting organizations, third-party testing and certifying organizations, and other stakeholders (Appendixes A and B). The public sessions (one of which was organized as a workshop) provided background information to the committee; information gained in the presentations is referenced in the report.
Efficacy refers to producing the intended results under optimal conditions of implementation, such as in a controlled laboratory environment. Effectiveness refers to producing the intended results under the normal conditions in which the product is used, such as in the workplace.