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.