The International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) visited Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) today to present him with its Robert B. Hurley Distinguished Service Award for the pivotal role he played in protecting America’s supply of respirators. The award was presented in person to McConnell by fellow Kentuckian and ISEA board member Wells Bullard, president and CEO of Bullard.
“Senator McConnell’s support of a provision to add NIOSH-approved respirators to the PREP Act, as part of the CARES Act helped ensure access to these essential products during the pandemic. We are very grateful for his assistance,” said Bullard, whose 122-year-old, fifth-generation, family-owned, Kentucky-based company designs, develops, manufactures, and markets high-quality personal protective equipment and systems sold around the world.
Bullard thanked Senator McConnell for supporting ISEA’s effort to add respirators to the PREP Act., as well as for his recent vote for the infrastructure bill.
Bullard was accompanied to the award presentation by Tom Geier, head of federal government affairs for 3M, an ISEA member; and Dan Glucksman, ISEA Senior Director, Policy.
“In the future, we look forward to working with Senator McConnell on pandemic response and emergency planning and preparedness, especially as it relates to the sustainability of respiratory protection production, allowing for respirator manufacturers to quickly respond when the need again arises,” added Glucksman.
Respirator Supply Was at Risk
Demand for NIOSH-approved respirators exploded almost overnight when the dangerous SARS-CoV-2 virus spread into a pandemic in 2020. Respirator manufacturers and distributors were being called on to provide their products rapidly to protect healthcare workers and first responders against this potentially lethal virus.
Safety equipment companies at the time were faced with a terrible dilemma. They were being called upon to ramp up respirator production to meet the huge demand, but doing so posed legal risks for companies.
Scaling back production was not an option. ISEA-member companies were not going to leave America’s healthcare workers and first responders unprotected. So, ISEA members proposed a solution to Congress: Add NIOSH-approved respirators to the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act. This law shifts the liability of items needed for a public health emergency response to the federal government.
When Senator McConnell was crafting the CARES Act, he saw the importance of including this provision and making sure it became law. Thanks to his bipartisan efforts in collaboration with a handful of senators and representatives from both sides of the aisle, Sections 3012 and 3013 of the CARES Act added respirators to the PREP Act. The bill became law on March 27, 2020, and changed the course of ISEA-member companies’ — and the nation’s — ability to respond to the pandemic.
ISEA’s Robert B. Hurley Distinguished Award honors an individual who, by a single action or the work of a lifetime, has made a significant and lasting contribution to the health and safety of workers. Presented each year at ISEA’s Annual Business Meeting, the award was renamed in 2007 in memory of Robert B. Hurley, president of Fendall Inc., a life-long advocate for worker safety and health, who died in May 2002. Mr. Hurley was a passionate supporter of workplace safety practices to ensure workers return home safely each day, and was widely regarded as an innovative authority in the safety industry.
Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) is the trade association in the U.S. for personal protective equipment and technologies. Its member companies are world leaders in the design, manufacture, testing and distribution of protective clothing and equipment used in factories, construction sites, hospitals and clinics, farms, schools, laboratories, emergency response and in the home. Since 1933, ISEA has set the standard for the personal protective equipment industry, supporting member companies united in the goal of protecting the health and safety of people worldwide.