A janitor working in a laboratory, who was disturbed by an unending beep, reportedly flicked a button that eliminated the noise but also switched off a storage freezer, erasing decades’ worth of scientific work.
The cleaner’s negligence resulted in at least $1 million in losses for the lab, according to the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York, for which the university sued the company that provided the cleaning services.
According to the Times Union, cell cultures, samples, and other items were kept at minus-112 degrees Fahrenheit in the extremely cold freezer that the Daigle Cleaning Services employee reportedly turned down. This made the temperature shoot down to a – 25.6 degrees, causing irreparable damage to the material, which reportedly focused on photosynthesis and may have advanced the creation of solar panels.
A mechanical issue prevented the device from keeping a steady temperature as it should have, setting off the freezer alarm. The newspaper said that there was a sign on the lab freezer door explaining the alarm’s origin and providing directions on how to turn it off. The notice said, “No cleaning required in this area”, “You can press the alarm/test mute button for 5-10 seconds if you would like to mute the sound.”
A complaint was then made by the RPI public safety personnel stating that the cleaner believed they were flipping the breaker on when they fact did the opposite and turned it off.“A majority of specimens were compromised, destroyed and rendered unsalvageable demolishing more than 20 years of research,” the lawsuit reads.