While preparing for an upcoming audit a lab technician we’ll call “Lily” arrived at 6:00 AM on Saturday to inventory three walk-in chambers—a 5°C refrigerator, a 40°C/75%RH walk-in, and large 25°C/60%RH room. She came in early with hopes of having time to do some Christmas shopping later. No one else was in the stability area at the time, but others were expected to help out at 9:00. Weekend work is optional, but also sought after for some extra income and to catch up.
Lily decided to start in the room-temperature chamber to avoid getting sweaty or cold so early in the day. She accessed the chamber with her badge to release the maglocks that secured it, then after about 30 minutes she needed to exit the room to get supplies, but when she tried to release the door, it would not open. For several minutes she tried unsuccessfully and, getting a bit panicky, pulled the emergency release to get out, which brought security personnel and a bit more excitement.
What if Lily had been in the 40°C/75%RH room or in the -20°C freezer? What if the problem couldn’t have been solved by the emergency door release? Two more hours in either of those rooms could have been fatal, which has raised some serious safety questions for us.
Should we ban all solo work in the chamber area? What are some safety policies you have in place to prevent similar situations? Do you have panic buttons or policies preventing people working alone in the area?