How 3M is taking the fight to respirator fraudsters

The level of counterfeit products reached sky-high levels during the pandemic but U.S. safety giant is determined to stamp it out

How 3M is taking the fight to respirator fraudsters

3M has vowed to continue its aggressive stance towards combating sales of counterfeit respirators, which surged to unprecedented levels during the pandemic.

The American safety product giant has been at the forefront of the COVID-19 response, ramping up its production of N95 respirators to full capacity before the virus even began to spread in the U.S. By the end of 2020, it had manufactured more than 2 billion respirators globally, while in the past year and a half it has more than quadrupled its production.

However, this enormous effort has attracted fraudsters. Dr Nikki McCullough, one of 3M’s Personal Safety Division leaders, told AOS that while there have always been counterfeit respirators in the market, the levels reached record-high levels during the past 18 months.

To fight this, the company put experts in each area of the world it operates in order to identify fraudulent offers and counterfeit products, and help local authorities prosecute.

Dr McCullough said: “We’re really trying to get the message out. If you're working with a new distributor that's not familiar to you, if somebody comes with an offer and wants money up front, if anything seems odd about a business transaction, or if you feel like an offer is just a little too good to be true, it’s worth reviewing the information on our website or with our professionals to double check.”

3M is driving awareness about what to look for and to make people aware that this is happening with all kinds of safety products, not just 3M’s. She added: “We’re working with law enforcement around the world to try to punish people and take them out of commission. If we can identify them so that it doesn't happen again and again and again, 3M [is happy to be] very aggressive to help protect our potential customers.”

At the heart of this is the company’s belief that every worker deserves to go home at the end of the day as healthy as they were at the beginning. The more emphasis placed on health and safety the better economy will be as less people will get injured or sick, and the more productive they are.

Attention has now turned to getting people back to work after months or working from home. Safety, of course, is paramount. Dr McCullough is proud of all frontline workers and the occupational safety industry for their efforts during such a difficult time.

“I’m really proud of the way 3M operates and the ethics and values it has. It not only invests in good new product introduction and making sure that we're manufacturing high-quality products, but it’s invested in me and my team, health and safety professionals, and regulatory professionals.

“We are here to help customers properly choose products but also to educate, train and help more people be aware of why health and safety is really important, not only to each worker, but to having sustainable communities.

“If you don’t have workplaces functional with healthy workers, that's not good for society. We’re here to be advocates for good occupational safety and health, as well as to provide personal protective equipment that that supports that message.”