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HomeVarietyWTF NewsCleaner destroys decades of groundbreaking research work by accidentally shutting off a freezer

Cleaner destroys decades of groundbreaking research work by accidentally shutting off a freezer

The lawyers claimed that the samples were stored at -80C (-112F) but the cleaner’s act left the sample "unsalvageable", causing a loss of $1 Million.  

On Monday, June 26, the BBC reported a strange case in which a cleaner destroyed decades of what is claimed to have been a potential groundbreaking work. As per the claims of US lawyers, this incident occurred in September 2020 when a custodial worker, annoyed by the continuous alarm sound, turned off a lab freezer. 

Reportedly, the freezer contained cell cultures, samples, and other research elements that were stored at minus 112 degrees Fahrenheit. However, in September 2020, an employee of Daigle Cleaning Services (DCS) turned off the circuit breaker.

It is claimed that there was a sign that explained how to mute the beep sound, but a breaker was switched off after a reading error.

The lawyers claimed that the samples were stored at -80C (-112F) but the cleaner’s act left the sample “unsalvageable”, causing a loss of $1 Million.  

The report also mentioned that the school operating the lab is filing a lawsuit against the cleaner’s employer, citing inadequate training as the grounds for their claim.

According to the Times Union report, the company involved in the alleged incident held a contract worth $1.4 million (£1.1 million) to clean the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York in 2020, which is when the alleged incident took place.

RPI’s attorney Michael Ginsberg said, “People’s behavior and negligence caused all this. Unfortunately, they wiped out 25 years of research.” 

A lawyer for RPI claimed that the research on photosynthesis was headed by Prof KV Lakshmi and it had the potential to be “ground-breaking” in advancing solar panel development. 

The case details

Further, it is reported that there was an alarm that was set to alert a 3C temperature rise, but it went off just a few days before the alleged incident when the employee turned off the freezer. As Covid restrictions were in place, there was a one-week delay before any repairs could begin.

The legal case stated that though the fluctuation could have been catastrophic, Prof Lakshmi determined that the cell cultures, samples, and research were not being harmed. 

However, to avert an undesirable situation, a sign was glued on the freezer’s door. It read, “This freezer is beeping as it is under repair. Please do not move or unplug it. No cleaning is required in this area.”

It further explained, “You can press the alarm/test mute button for 5-10 seconds if you would like to mute the sound.”

However, just days after the alarm began to sound, the custodial worker took the action of turning off the circuit breaker that supplied electricity to the freezer.

According to the legal case, the majority of specimens were meant to be kept at -80C. But when the custodial worker turned off the freezer they were “compromised, destroyed and rendered unsalvageable, destroying more than 20 years of research.”

The New York Post reported that a report was filed by the public safety staff at the institute. The report claimed that the cleaner thought they were flipping the breaker on when they actually turned it off.

Unfortunately, by the time researchers discovered the error, the temperature had allegedly risen by 50 degrees to about -30C. The lawyers who interviewed the custodial worker reported that he still cannot believe that he had done anything wrong. Instead, he believes that he was just trying to help

According to the institute’s legal team, the company responsible for employing the cleaner did not provide sufficient training to their employee. As of now, the company has not issued any comments on the matter.

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