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Equitable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Protections Workshop

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In light of the importance of PPE to U.S. workers, in 2021, NIOSH launched an effort to develop a national strategy for equitable PPE protections for all United States workers. As a first component, NIOSH published a Federal Register Notice, “Needs and Challenges in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Use for Underserved User Populations,” to obtain input from interested parties. Following this effort, on November 8-9, 2022, the NIOSH Personal Protective Technology Program hosted a free two-day virtual workshop to highlight ongoing activities and discuss prominent issues on equitable PPE protections for all United States workers.

Focusing on underserved PPE user groups, the workshop addressed issues pertinent to equitable PPE use, availability, accessibility, acceptability, and knowledge. Underserved PPE user groups include workers of an atypical size; members of a gender, racial, ethnic, or linguistic minority group; those who perform nontraditional worker activities; and members of subdisciplines where current PPE activities do not typically receive attention within their larger field.

Over 700 attendees joined the workshop on the first day and 1,000 on the second day. Presenters included representatives from NIOSH, academia, industry, and labor. The presenters provided insights on factors affecting equitable PPE protections ranging from standards development to perspectives on design approaches that ensure that PPE accommodate the size and shape of the diverse workforce. Feedback gathered from attendees and participants revealed four primary themes in relation to challenges, issues, and concerns for PPE developers, researchers, and end users moving forward:

  • size, shape, fit, functionality, and safety of PPE for end users;
  • the need for interdisciplinary collaborations and partnerships;
  • gaps and challenges related to PPE standards;
  • limitations of PPE manufacturing.

The workshop documented a comprehensive list of equitable PPE protection challenges and detailed the barriers and gaps that permit these challenges to exist. At the workshop’s conclusion, NIOSH announced the formation of an Equitable PPE Protections Partnership that will bring together all those interested in contributing to the national strategy to create opportunities for collaboration and connection.

NIOSH will also publish a proceedings of salient points from the workshop in 2023, available on this page.

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