Personal Protective Technology Program
Updated July 15, 2022
The Personal Protective Technology (PPT) Program prevents work-related injury, illness, and death by advancing the state of knowledge and application of PPT. It supports more than 20 million U.S. workers who rely on this equipment (e.g., respirators, coveralls, gowns, gloves, eye protection and other types of protective gear) to keep them safe from on-the-job hazards.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published a Consensus Study Report titled, Frameworks for Protecting Workers and the Public from Inhalation Hazards. Federal partners, NIOSH, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of State, as well as the CDC Foundation, commissioned this report to address the evolving respiratory protection needs of the public and workers not operating under a respiratory protection program.
PPT plays an important role in protecting healthcare personnel. Reflecting on the nation’s past decade of experiences with infectious and non-infectious hazards, the NIOSH PPT Program has developed a strategic approach to PPT research, development, performance standards and test methods, and conformity assessment.
The Personal Protective Technology (PPT) Program is a world leader in keeping American workers safe through PPT research, standards development, respirator conformity assessment, public outreach, and information dissemination. This technology partially, but not absolutely, protects workers from death and disabling injuries and illnesses resulting from exposures to hazardous airborne particles, harmful chemicals, dangerous biological material, excessive noise, falls, physical trauma, and fires. Examples of PPT include respirators, protective clothing, gloves, eye, fall and hearing protection, hard hats, and sensors to detect hazardous substances. The primary focus of the PPT Program’s projects and activities is on PPT issues affecting the Public Safety, Healthcare and Social Assistance, and Mining sectors.
The PPT Program is responsible for testing and certifying new respirators before they enter the market. This ensures that NIOSH-approved respirators meet the minimum construction, performance, and respiratory protection standards to keep users safe. The Program conducts post-market activities to ensure devices continue to perform to the applicable standard. Additionally, the Program evaluates and improves equipment worn by workers by conducting research on new technologies, emerging hazards, and test methods. Based on the research, the PPT Program is able to develop and implement science-based national guidance for respiratory and other personal protective technologies. The Program performs outreach to disseminate guidance and tools to help employers and employees use PPT as effectively as possible.
One of the key responsibilities of the PPT Program is to test and approve respirators used in U.S. occupational settings. This function ensures a standard level of quality and filtration efficiency for all respirators used within a U.S. workplace setting. This function is guided by a set of service goals that reflect ongoing efforts to ensure that users are able to select and use a variety of respirators that meet NIOSH performance requirements.
The PPT Program also conducts research to evaluate performance, comfort, fit, and usability of personal protective equipment. To do this work, the PPT Program intersects with several sector and cross-sector programs within the NIOSH Program Portfolio. Ten sector programs represent industrial sectors, and seven cross-sector programs are organized around health and safety outcomes. PPT is one of numerous core and specialty programs that represent core activities, mandates, special emphasis areas, and methodological approaches. The sector programs intersect with cross-sector programs in a matrix-like fashion, with relevant core and specialty programs playing a supporting role.
This approach allows multiple programs to work towards accomplishing the shared research goals in the NIOSH Strategic Plan. For example, the PPT Program contributes to goals on:
- Reducing cancer and adverse reproductive outcomes, pathogen transmission, and work-related asthma among healthcare and social assistance workers.
- Reducing lung cancer and other respiratory diseases caused by hazardous airborne contaminants among mining workers.
- Preventing exposures to known or suspected carcinogens among fire fighters
- Reducing exposure to particulates and heat stress suspected of contributing to adverse cardiovascular outcomes in firefighters and other first responders.
- Prevent transmission of infectious disease among public safety workers.
Program Performance One-pager
The PPT Program Performance One-Pager (PPOP) offers a snapshot of NIOSH programs’ priorities, strategies used to make progress towards priorities, recent accomplishments, and upcoming work.
The COVID-19 pandemic created an unprecedented challenge to global PPE supply chains. Widespread shortages of respirators, especially N95 filtering facepiece respirators, left many workers in the United States without the respiratory protection they needed to do their jobs. The PPT program completed more than 550 Respirator Assessments to Support the COVID-19 Response. These reports provided respirator purchasers with information about respirators that were 1) conforming to international standards rather than US standards, 2) beyond shelf life, or 3) decontaminated.
More information useful resources can be found on the Directory of Personal Protective Equipment. Especially important resources include:
- Certified Equipment List
- Searchable database of NIOSH-approved respirators
- Counterfeit Respirators
- Alerts about counterfeit respirators or those misrepresenting NIOSH approval on the market
- COVID-19 PPE FAQs
- Frequently asked questions about personal protective equipment
- Elastomeric Half Mask Respirator Resources
- A type of air-purifying respirator that allows for repeated cleaning, disinfection, storage, and reuse
- PPE CASE Reports
- Findings from post-market personal protective equipment tests, evaluations, and investigations
- Powered Air-Purifying Respirator Standard
- Interim final rule on approval tests and standards for air-purifying particulate respiratorst
The NIOSH Science Blog provides an opportunity to learn about various workplace safety and health topics and exchange ideas with leading researchers from NIOSH. Check out NIOSH Science Blogs about personal protective equipment and respirators.
Contact the PPT program at PPEConcerns@cdc.gov with any questions.