Taking into account several important factors beyond the program’s control, the committee found that since 2001 (the period covered by this review), the PPT Program has made meaningful contributions to improving worker health and safety. Using a five-point scoring scale (where 5 is highest), the committee assigned the NIOSH PPT Program a score of 4 for relevance. This score reflects the judgment that the PPT Program is working in priority areas and is engaged in transferring its research to improved products and processes. The committee also assigned the PPT Program a score of 4 for impact, indicating that the program has made probable contributions to end outcomes (improvements in worker health or safety) in addition to well-accepted intermediate outcomes.
To enhance the relevance and impact of its work, the committee recommends the development of a National PPT Program consistent with the original congressional mandate that would foster the development of improved protection for all workers through coordinated oversight of all PPT. The committee also recommends that the PPT Program establish research centers of excellence, enhance the respirator certification process, increase research on the use and usability of PPT, and assess PPT use and effectiveness in the workplace using a life-cycle approach.
Maintaining the health and safety of workers in the United States and globally is accomplished in part by reducing hazardous exposures through the use of personal protective equipment. Personal protective technologies (PPT) include respirators worn by construction workers and miners to protect against exposure to silica, dust, and hazardous gases; protective clothing, respirators, and gloves worn by firefighters and mine rescue workers to avoid burns and smoke inhalation; and respirators and protective clothing worn by healthcare workers to prevent acquiring an infectious disease. An estimated 5 million workers are required to wear respirators in 1.3 million U.S. workplaces. For some occupations, such as firefighting, the worker’s protective equipment is the only form of protection against life-threatening hazards; for other workers, PPT is a supplement to ventilation and other environmental, engineering, or administrative hazard controls.
In the United States, federal responsibility for civilian worker PPT is integral to the mission of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). This report examines the NIOSH Personal Protective Technology Program (PPT Program) and specifically focuses on the relevance and impact of this program in reducing hazardous exposures and improving worker health and safety.