Malfunctioning Equipment Results in Loss of Research

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Type:  Lessons Learned

Publisher:  Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA


Topics:  Electrical, Maintenance, Laboratory

Proper controls, commensurate with the value of research and to avoid the risk of losing irreplaceable research, must be identified and implemented.

A Principal Investigator in a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory offsite research lab discovered that a -80 degrees Fahrenheit freezer, storing human and animal tissue, failed and resulted in the loss of tissue samples. The samples had been collected over a ten-year period, some of which were irreplaceable, and valued at millions of dollars. it was determined that the second stage compressor and start components failed rendering the freezer inoperable. The ultimate failure of the start relay was inconclusive. However, the failed freezer reliability had been questionable due to several failures and repairs over a five-year period. In addition, the maintenance records for the freezer were inconsistent. Several factors led to the loss of the irreplaceable research including Insufficient Institutional Process. insufficient defense-in-depth control, and insufficient risk management.

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