surveys, and other market forces (e.g., liability, manufacturer reputation) help sort out the effective or consumer-preferred products. Products may be designed to meet specific voluntary consensus standards, but with limited or no testing to see if the product meets the standard. Other products may have little or no production testing or inspection to ensure that they continue to meet their design parameters. Products that have extensive conformity assessment processes often are those whose failure could significantly impact health or safety.

In keeping with the study task, this report focuses on the role of agencies at the federal level. However, it is important to note that state and local government agencies also often play a critical role in standards development and conformity assessment. For example, water quality testing is largely under state and local jurisdiction (Breitenburg, 1997b; EPA, 2010).

This chapter discusses each of the following conformity assessment functions (Figure 2-1) and potential roles for government agencies with the committee’s appraisal of the strengths and challenges of those roles as it relates to conformity assessment efforts for non-respirator PPT:

  • Standards development, a precursor to conformity assessment;

  • Product testing;

  • Accreditation of laboratories and certifying organizations;

  • Declaration of conformity and product certification;

  • Communication;

  • Incentives and enforcement;

  • Surveillance and post-marketing testing and evaluation; and

  • Other roles, including conducting research to inform standards and develop test methods, convening of stakeholders, and training.


The antecedent to a strong conformity assessment process is having rigorous standards in place. Once standards are available that set the criteria for product performance, testing, and test methods, then a conformity assessment process can be developed to assess the product’s ability to meet those criteria. Where possible, standards specify performance criteria rather than design criteria to allow for greater flexibility in developing

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement