The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) announced a new crowdsourcing competition Jan. 10 called the Respirator Fit Evaluation Challenge.
This prize challenge, which will consist of multiple phases, offers $350,000 in total prize money “for novel solutions to improve respirator fit testing practices.”
The challenge is a joint collaboration between NIOSH, Capital Consulting Corporation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Why the need for novel solutions?
OSHA requires annual fit testing for all employees who must wear a respirator, but according to NIOSH, research has shown “that small or disadvantaged workplaces may not have the resources to conduct initial and annual respirator fit testing.”
Further, the general public is now wearing N95 and other tight fitting respirators more than ever before thanks to hazards such as COVID-19 and wildfire smoke. NIOSH feels that members of the public may be wearing such respirators 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,” Maryann D’Alessandro, director of NIOSH’s National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory, said. “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.”
How to enter the challenge
Individuals and teams can submit ideas for the challenge to improve respirator fit evaluations. To enter the challenge, register here.
Challenge sponsors will host an orientation webinar on Feb. 2, 2023, for registered participants to gain additional information and ask clarifying questions.
To compete in Phase One, participants must submit a 10-page concept paper outlining an idea on how to improve respirator fit testing and feedback by May 1, 2023. Up to 20 participants will be eligible to win $5,000 and continue to Phase Two of the challenge.