Ohio awards UC $2.1 million to research and develop new protections for workers

Cooling technology for firefighters one of two state-funded projects underway at UC

As reported by multiple media outlets, the University of Cincinnati has been awarded over $2 million in grants from the state of Ohio to research and develop new personal protective equipment (PPE) and personal protective technology (PPT) to protect Ohio’s workers.  

The grants, over $1 million each, were awarded by the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation’s (BWC) Workforce Safety Innovation Center for the benefit of workers employed in various fields including first responders, manufacturing, agriculture, and other sectors requiring additional protection while on the job.

Faculty and state representatives holding large checks that represent grant monies

Left to right: Ashley Kubley, Sandi Golden-Vest, Stephanie McCloud and Jun Wang with mock grant checks from the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation. Kubley and Wang are the principal investigators on two research projects awarded by the state. Golden-Vest and McCloud are representatives from the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation.

A $1.1 million grant will be used to research and develop a firefighter jacket liner that brings a firefighter’s body temperature down through cooling technology and protects the body from other external hazards. This project is being led by Ashley Kubley, associate professor of fashion design in UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP). 

“This is the largest grant our college has ever been awarded, and we are grateful for the opportunity to represent our college amongst others across the university who have achieved similar milestones,” says Kubley, who heads DAAP’s Evelyn G. Burgoyne Textiles Innovation Laboratory.   

Her team on this project includes researchers from DAAP and the colleges of engineering and medicine. 

“Our labs and research locations provide us with state-of-the-art equipment, tools, instruments and personnel that are at the heart of how we collect the data that proves value and success," says Kubley.  The team, she says, will partner with The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and LION Protects, a manufacturer of personal protection equipment in Dayton, Ohio, to produce the fire coat liner and test it on firefighters in live burn training.

The lesson we learned from COVID is the importance of PPE when it comes down to protecting workers.

Jun Wang, PhD UC College of Medicine

The second grant, for $1 million, will be used to develop wireless sensors for respiratory masks to detect when hazardous particles have breached the masks. The project is being led by led by Jun Wang, an assistant professor of environmental sciences in UC’s College of Medicine.  Wang says that workers, while wearing their masks, will simply be able to approach a device that will give a red, green or yellow light depending on levels of exposure. 

“The project will not only promote the usage of PPE but also improve the efficacy of such use with cutting-edge sensor technologies,” says Wang, adding “the lesson we learned from COVID is the importance of PPE when it comes down to protecting workers.”

Both researchers say the grants indicate a significant investment from the State of Ohio to a better, safer and healthier workplace. The projects are estimated to take around a year to complete. 

The grant awards were covered by both local and regional media. 

WVXU: 2 UC projects win 1M each from the Bureau of Workers' Comp

WKRC: 2 UC projects helping keep laborers safe on the job granted over $2 million

Spectrum News 1: State grant helps UC researchers improve firefighter PPE

Featured image at top courtesy of Unsplash.

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