At the 2013 International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) Executive Summit in Orange County, Calif., ISEA President Dan Shipp outlined a new, voluntary personal protective equipment (PPE) conformity assessment standard currently in development. While OSHA regulates safety within workplaces, the agency does not regulate products or safety equipment, and the United States lacks a consistent system for PPE conformity assessment. That, coupled with manufacturers’ varying views on third-party certification and the influx of imported PPE that is untested and uncertified, makes for a complicated PPE landscape.

“The ISEA board of directors feels it’s time to act — to create a voluntary standard independent of any product standard,” Shipp told ISEA members during the session.

This voluntary standard, designated as ISEA 125 with the intent to gain ANSI approval and become ANSI/ISEA 125, would establish criteria for the conformity assessment of safety and PPE that is sold with claims of compliance with product-performance standards.

“This standard provides an organized and systematic way for a supplier to verify that a product meets the requirements of a performance standard, and to communicate that verification to the purchaser and user,” ISEA’s website states. “It includes standardized requirements for initial and ongoing testing, process quality management, recordkeeping and surveillance, and declaration of conformity. Recognizing the diversity of products, hazards, users and suppliers, it offers three alternative methods of conformity assessment, ranging from in-house testing and monitoring to full third-party certification.”

In his address on April 30, Shipp stressed that the standard is not an attempt to assign a specific method of conformity assessment to a specific product or hazard. It’s not a regulation, and it’s not an attempt to expand third-party specification. Instead, it offers a separate resource for conformity assessment that can be used in conjunction with product performance standards for a wide range of PPE types, according to ISEA.

ISEA began work on the voluntary standard in 2010. Currently, the standard is awaiting ANSI approval, and Shipp said he hopes the standard will be complete by the end of 2013.

“I believe this approach could give your companies a way to provide assurance to your customers about your products,” Shipp told ISEA members.

For more information about the voluntary conformity assessment standard, visit http://www.safetyequipment.org/c/conformity.cfm or read a summary (PDF) of the proposed standard.