NIOSH Reveals Respirator Fit Evaluation Challenge Phase 1 Winners

NIOSH Reveals Respirator Fit Evaluation Challenge Phase 1 Winners

The three-part competition aims to inspire improvements in worker safety.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently launched its Respirator Fit Evaluation Challenge, and now the event has revealed its first round of winners.

In a CDC release dated July 13, NIOSH announced the winners of Phase 1 of the Respirator Fit Evaluation Challenge. The competition—a collaboration between NIOSH, Capital Consulting Corporation and the NASA Tournament Lab—will span three phases, with a total of $350,000 in total prizes awarded to the winning teams. Twenty winners were selected for this first phase.

The goal of the challenge, according to the Respirator Fit Evaluation Challenge webpage, is to “crowdsource novel technologies and innovative approaches that deliver immediate evaluation and feedback to end users about the fit of filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs) during use.”

In Phase 1, participants submitted 10-page outlines presenting their ideas on how to improve respirator fit testing. Winning technologies include Light Detection and Ranging, infrared imagery and thermal monitoring, fabric-based sensor networks, light sensing and an app combining AI with facial recognition. Each winning team received a $5,000 award.

“Respirators are crucial to protect workers and the public from various respiratory hazards, including airborne infectious agents and wildfire smoke,” Maryann D’Alessandro, Ph.D., director of NIOSH’s National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory said in the CDC release. “Many small or disadvantaged workplaces, however, lack the resources for fit testing, and workers at these underserved workplaces and the general public often wear respirators without knowing if they fit properly and provide the expected level of protection. The Challenge aims to address these issues by identifying practical solutions that deliver real-time information on respirator fit.”

Phase 2 of the Respirator Fit Evaluation Challenge begins on August 1, 2023, with winners announced on March 12, 2024. During this phase, competitors will design prototypes of their original submissions. Up to 10 teams will apply their winning portion of the $100,000 Phase 2 prize money to building pre-production prototypes. These projects will then face NIOSH evaluation in Phase 3, kicking off in March 2024.

About the Author

Robert Yaniz Jr. is the Content Editor of Occupational Health & Safety.

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