Hospital worker’s sharp eye catches fake mask delivery

WEYMOUTH, Mass. — A South Shore Health worker’s sharp eye helped save the day after a counterfeit shipment of N95 masks were shipped to the hospital.

The masks are virtually impossible to tell apart, according to the man who orders equipment and supplies for the Weymouth hospital.

“Really there’s just no way to tell that,” said Barry O’Shaughenessy, who discovered the fakes.

“The first thing I noticed on one of the pallets on one of the shipping labels from the 3M shipping label was in a different position in the box. I said that’s a little weird,” said O’Shaughnessy.

O’Shaughenessy ordered before from 3M, the company that makes the N95 masks. But this time a 3rd party supplier contacted him which was not unusual during the winter months when Covid rates had spiked across the state. So,he arranged a deal with the seller who was based in New Jersey.

“I said we are going to buy a bunch but we are going to get them verified by 3M before we actually pay you and he said fine,” said O’Shaughnessy.

After all, these masks are worn by hospital staff who care for Covid patients and anyone with infectious diseases.

“It was 30,000 masks so it was a big order,” said O’Shaughnessy.

Once they arrived the shipping box wasn’t the only thing a little off.

“I would open up the box and the plastic bag that holds the masks was of a thinner material almost like cellophane and it had a heat seal and a bad heat seal that I had not seen before,” said O’Shaughnessy.

So, he reached out to 3M which has a fraud division. During Covid counterfeit masks are everywhere, according to O’Shaughnessy. On the 3M website it shows that to date the company has seized 37 million fakes masks.

His discovery added 30,000 more to that count.

“I heard back from them within hours that they were indeed counterfeit,” said O’Shaughnessy.

In the end, his years of training and knowing what to look for not only saved the hospital money, but saved health care workers from possible exposure to Covid from those fake masks.

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