Committee on the Certification of Personal Protective Technologies Statement of Task

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) will convene an expert committee to assess the certification* mechanisms needed to ensure the efficacy of non-respirator personal protective technologies (PPT). National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health certification of respirators has had a significant positive impact on the quality of respirators available in the workplace; however, there is no analogous federal process for ensuring certification of the efficacy of non-respirator PPT (e.g., eye protection, hearing protection, medical masks, protective clothing).

The IOM committee will examine various approaches to certification (e.g., federal laboratory certification, third-party certification, federal certification of nongovernmental laboratories) and will make recommendations on certifying non-respirator PPT. As part of its data-gathering efforts, the committee will plan and conduct a public workshop to examine the various approaches used to certify the efficacy of other types of products used for protection (e.g., bullet-proof vests, personal flotation devices), as well as to examine relevant standards and regulations and the benefits of certification to worker safety.

The context for the study will emphasize efforts to certify personal protective technologies (other than respirators) for healthcare workers during an influenza pandemic, although the effort will be relevant to other types and uses of PPT.

A report will be issued that includes the committee’s recommendations on mechanisms for certifying and ensuring the efficacy of non-respirator PPT.


*Defined broadly to encompass conformity assessment.

are deemed to be impractical (e.g., construction, maritime), or where exposures are poorly characterized (e.g., spill response, hazardous waste remediation, firefighting). Approximately 5 million U.S. workers are required to wear respirators in 1.3 million U.S. workplaces. In some occupations, such as construction and firefighting, PPT is the primary or only line of defense against hazardous exposure. PPT effectiveness can be seen every day in the survival and lack of harm experienced by most firefighters. In 2008, U.S. firefighters responded to 1,451,500 calls and suffered 36,595 injuries and 29 deaths on scene at fire incidents.

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