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Respirator Fit Evaluation Challenge: NIOSH offering $350K in prize money

Photo: NIOSH

Washington — Do you have an idea for improving fit testing of respirators? NIOSH is offering $350,000 in total prize money as part of its Respirator Fit Evaluation Challenge.

“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,” NIOSH says. “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.”

During the first phase of the challenge, individuals or teams must submit a concept paper of 10 pages or fewer outlining an idea on how to improve fit testing. The submission deadline is May 1. Up to 20 participants or teams will be eligible to win $5,000 each while advancing to Phase 2.

Anyone interested in participating must register on the challenge website. An orientation webinar is slated for Feb. 2, allowing participants to ask questions and get additional information. 

“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,” Maryann D’Alessandro, director of NIOSH’s National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory, said in the release. “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.

“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. NIOSH looks forward to receiving novel ideas to improve respirator fit testing through this challenge.”

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