A well-trained cleaner should be an asset to any company, but how do you train staff to cover every eventuality? It appears that you can’t… Over the years we’ve had cleaners throw out artworks and museum pieces (thinking they’re rubbish), cleaners cleaning valuable paintings and artefacts and damaging them, and cleaners unplugging patients’ life support machines so they can plug in their vacuum cleaners instead. Now we hear of a cleaner who inadvertently turned off a university’s laboratory freezer, and in so doing virtually eradicated ‘decades’ of valuable research while creating the headache of a million dollar lawsuit for his employer.
The New York-based Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute says that the freezer in question had been set at -80C, and that in switching it off, the cleaner had allowed the temperature to rise to -32C, when a fluctuation as small as three degrees would cause serious damage to the cell cultures and samples inside.
I understand that the freezer had been fitted with a safety lock box on its outlet and socket following emergency repairs, and the cleaner, upon hearing ‘annoying’ alarms, had thought that these had been off. He did what he thought was right and tried to turn them back on – switching them off instead and compromising the samples, thus demolishing more than 20 years of research. I’ll bet the poor man will never forgive himself.