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M Health Fairview rolls out new UV decontamination process for N95 masks

With help from 3M and Clorox, this innovation will help conserve scarce supplies for our workers
N95 mask decontamination with ultraviolet light

A new process for decontaminating N95 masks will protect healthcare workers and conserve limited resources, thanks to a collaboration between M Health Fairview, 3M, Clorox Healthcare, and other community partners.

M Health Fairview’s unique mobile UV tower system allows for a fast, streamlined process to decontaminate masks during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has put a strain on supply chains for personal protective equipment.

The process can currently decontaminate about 62 masks every 45 minutes. These early numbers indicate each site could decontaminate up to 700 masks per eight-hour shift. 3M verified on April 10 that the fit and filtration of its N95 respirators did not show degradation after going through our ultraviolet germicidal irradiation, or UVGI, system. The process maintains the integrity and performance of the masks for up to six decontamination cycles.

At the end of each shift, staff will drop off their N95 masks in clearly labeled packages within their unit. From there, processing staff will hang each mask individually on a rack system designed to optimize UV exposure. Masks will be returned promptly to the same single user and quality checks will occur before and after decontamination to alert users when a replacement is necessary.

M Health Fairview began the multiphase rollout this week to our hospitals with the highest N95 use, including M Health Fairview Bethesda Hospital, the state’s only hospital exclusively treating COVID-19 patients.

This is the latest step we've taken to conserve and expand use of N95 masks and PPE for healthcare workers. As of April 9, all healthcare workers across the M Health Fairview system who are directly caring for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients wear N95 respirators in inpatient and emergency department settings, using a five-day mask rotation process. This process means each healthcare worker will receive five masks over the course of a 10-day rotation period, with each mask being worn twice.

Additionally, M Health Fairview implemented a universal masking policy for all employees in late March.