Certifying Personal Protective Technologies: Improving Worker Safety


Report at a Glance

Millions of workers in worksites across the United States rely on personal protective technologies (PPT) to guard against injury, illness, or death. To ensure that PPT will perform as intended, government agencies, man­ufacturers, purchasers, and many other stakeholders participate in an array of activities that are referred to collectively as conformity assessment. Currently, the nature and rigor of the conformity assessment processes vary widely. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) asked the IOM to examine the various approaches to performance testing and verification that are cur­rently used to certify the effectiveness of PPT; to review the standards and regulations that cover PPT; and to assess the benefits of certification to worker safety.

The IOM concludes that current approaches to evaluating occupational PPT, often by job sector, are frag­mented and vary in the extent to which third-party independent assessments are conducted. Therefore, the IOM recom­mends the establishment of a com­prehensive framework for PPT conformity assess­ment. This framework would categorize products based on the health or safety hazards that workers would encounter due to product failure, and each cat­egory of risk—high, medium, or low—would require a different level of conformity assessment. In addition, the IOM recommends that NIOSH establish an electronic surveillance system for PPT product effectiveness in the workplace to collect information on failures of PPT and adverse outcomes that occur while workers are wearing personal protective equipment or devices.