The NIOSH Protective Clothing Challenge—Leaving No Body Unprotected

Provide better-fitting protective clothing for the full spectrum of U.S. workers

Other Funding
  • Program Type
    Other Funding
  • Funding Award
  • Submission Deadline
    June 30th, 2022 @ 2:00 pm PDT

U.S. workers require protective clothing that fits properly to perform their jobs safely. Protective clothing that fits poorly can compromise safety and performance of people as they work, resulting in injuries and lost-time to those trying to do their jobs and risks to those around them. Unfortunately, for many workers, finding properly fitting protective clothing is harder than it should be.

Traditional sizing approaches do not accommodate the shapes and sizes of all workers, and current designs and knowledge management materials (e.g., training) for protective clothing may not support differences that arise from important religious or cultural practices. Typical procurement approaches financially reward large-quantity purchases, which can negatively impact the availability of some protective clothing by creating a disincentive for manufacturers to make and distributors to carry lower-volume products. Further, access to protective clothing that meets the needs of all workers when and where that clothing is needed (i.e., the point of use) can be disrupted by a myriad of logistics challenges within the work environment.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) seeks your help in generating innovative solutions to address the above issues. These solutions will help to ensure that protective clothing designs and supporting guidance allow for safe use by all workers with these designs being equitably available in the marketplace and at the point of use. Solutions should consider the broad spectrum of U.S. workers in relation to factors that may influence fit such as body size and shape, gender, race, ethnicity, religious or cultural practices, or specific work tasks.

PMGR: NIOSH — Where Occupational Safety and Health Intersects with Preventive Medicine

The August 2021 Preventive Medicine Grand Rounds features Dr. Randall Nett, Chief of the Field Studies Branch in the Respiratory Health Division at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Dr. Nett will help Preventive Medicine learners understand the background and mission of NIOSH, key activities at NIOSH, and examples of how work at NIOSH helps protect the health of the nation’s workers. Safeguarding worker health is often an underappreciated aspect of Preventive Medicine.


Within NIOSH, the National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL) serves as the division devoted to research, evaluation, testing, and standards related to personal protective equipment (PPE) for U.S. workers. NPPTL’s expanding portfolio includes promoting equitable PPE protections for the full spectrum of U.S. workers. NIOSH NPPTL seeks innovators who can help meet this ambitious challenge. As part of its commitment to promoting equitable PPE protections,

The Challenge supports NIOSH NPPTL’s efforts to provide equitable PPE protections for all U.S. workers by identifying solutions in relation to factors that may influence protective clothing fit. These solutions may address protective clothing use, acceptability, knowledge, availability, or access challenges for any of the following protective clothing types: medical gowns, firefighter turnout coats and pants, and protective coveralls described in more detail below.

The Need for Properly Fitting Protective Clothing

Examples of identified gaps to be considered in this challenge include:

  • Use or acceptability challenges due to shape and size considerations such as pregnancy, health status, or ethnicity
  • Use or acceptability challenges arising from specific work, cultural, or religious activities
  • Use or acceptability challenges arising from gender norming assumptions
  • Lack of knowledge management materials about protective clothing selection or use by individuals with specific needs based on cultural or religious beliefs or practices
  • Lack of knowledge management materials related to sizing practices or standards
  • Lack of knowledge management materials identifying products on the market that meet fit needs of specific populations
  • Availability challenges caused by supply chain market practices
  • Access challenges at the point of use due to logistics challenges such as remote locations or space restrictions
  • Future Phases

    Check out an overview of each competition phase below - complete rules for each phase will be released as the competition progresses.