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NIOSH Launches New Crowdsourcing Competition to Improve Respirator Fit Evaluations

Challenge offers $350K prize to find user-friendly, real-time solutions for respirator fit testing

January 10, 2023
NIOSH Update:

Media Contact: Stephanie Stevens,

Respirator Fit Evaluation Challenge logo of a face mask graphic

WASHINGTON – Today, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) launched its latest crowdsourcing competition, the Respirator Fit Evaluation Challenge. This multi-phase prize challenge offers $350,000 in total prize money for novel solutions to improve respirator fit testing practices. The Challenge is a collaboration between NIOSH, Capital Consulting Corporation, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

While OSHA requires annual fit testing for all employees who must wear a respirator, research has shown that small or disadvantaged workplaces may not have the resources to conduct initial and annual respirator fit testing. Additionally, the public now wears tight fitting respirators, such as N95® filtering facepiece respirators, more than ever for protection from hazards such as infectious diseases, pollution, or wildfire smoke without knowing whether they provide adequate protection.

“Fit testing is vital to ensure a respirator wearer is receiving the expected level of protection and is wearing a correctly fitting model and size,” said Maryann D’Alessandro, PhD, director of NIOSH’s National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory, which is sponsoring the Challenge. “We hope this Challenge helps us identify a practical solution that delivers users, whether in a workplace or not, immediate information on a respirator’s fit.”

Individuals or teams are encouraged to submit an idea to improve respirator fit evaluation. To compete in Phase 1 of the Challenge, participants must submit a 10-page (maximum) concept paper that outlines an idea on how to improve respirator fit testing and feedback by May 1, 2023. During Phase 1, up to 20 participants or teams will be eligible to win $5,000 and continue to Phase 2 of the Challenge.

To enter the Challenge, register on the Challenge website. Challenge sponsors will host an orientation webinar on Feb. 2 for registered participants to gain additional information and ask clarifying questions.

“This Challenge provides an opportunity for innovators to develop a solution that can improve the safety and health of everyone who wears a filtering facepiece respirator,” said D’Alessandro. “NIOSH looks forward to receiving novel ideas to improve respirator fit testing through this Challenge.”

The mission of the National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL) is to advance the state of knowledge and application of personal protective technologies. NPPTL conducts scientific research, leads federal and consensus personal protective technology standards and development, approves respirators, develops guidance and authoritative recommendations, and disseminates information.

NIOSH is the federal institute that conducts research and makes recommendations for preventing work-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths. For more information about NIOSH, visit