Freezers and refrigerators are an integral part of laboratory equipment across a wide range of scientific disciplines from research laboratories in universities, to commercial biotechnology and biopharmaceutical companies, to hospital and public health laboratories. As with all laboratory equipment, freezers and refrigerators may fail, which can lead to heavy financial losses – potentially millions of dollars – if valuable samples or vital reagents are destroyed.
A catastrophic failure might also lead to emotional trauma for would-be parents if it were to occur at a fertility clinic, where frozen eggs and embryos are stored. The loss of any patients’ embryos, especially if it is all they have, is devastating. Freezer failures also contribute to the loss of important and highly valuable scientific research, as was the case with Harvard Medical School’s loss of 14 years’ worth of brain tissue.
Why Freezer Failures Occur
There are many contributing factors as to why a laboratory freezer may undergo catastrophic failure. There may be problems with the relay on the control board of the freezer, which leads to temperature stability problems that ultimately cause the freezer to fail. The door could be opened too frequently by laboratory staff, or the door could be left open for longer than necessary when scientists retrieve samples or reagents. Compressor breakdown is another cause of freezer failures, and there is always the underlying possibility of a general facility power outage. Poor maintenance or improper cleaning on freezers can also cause them to fail, or at the very least, makes them more expensive to operate.
In all of these cases of refrigerator or freezer failures, time is of the essence in addressing the issue.
How to Mitigate Failure Risks
There are many ways in which laboratory personnel, specifically those in facility and lab operations roles, can mitigate risks posed by laboratory equipment failures. All laboratory staff members should be properly trained in the SOPs for all refrigerators and freezers to ensure the frequency and duration that these devices are opened remains within, or under, equipment manufacturer specifications.
Laboratory and facility managers should be monitoring all freezers so that samples and reagents can be moved to a properly functioning freezer if a freezer were to fail. Root cause analysis can then help discover the reason for the freezer failure, and identify what steps can be taken to prevent other laboratory equipment failures in the future.
In the event of a general power outage, a backup power supply should be brought online to replace the primary power system the instant it fails. This is important not only for laboratory freezers but also for a variety of other laboratory equipment and devices that depend on a continuous power supply to function properly.
After precious samples have been safely stored in another unit following a freezer failure, the next steps should focus on repairing the failed unit and identifying the root causes of the failure. Identifying these causes can be difficult, either because the relevant data is not available or is difficult to analyze. Real-time data is of paramount importance since it provides a way to quickly identify many of the root causes of a freezer failure, whether they are mechanical or electronic failures, or related to the manner of use of the unit by the staff.
Protect from Freezer Failures
Manual, or paper-based, reporting is prone to errors and is time intensive. XiltriX provides a comprehensive laboratory monitoring system that automates many of the functions required to mitigate the risks of laboratory equipment failures. XiltriX offers a range of alarm options and escalation protocols to ensure a timely response from the appropriate personnel in the event of any laboratory equipment failure at any time of the day or night. These alarms can be accessed from any computer, tablet, or mobile devices, and sent via emails, texts or calls, meaning that the right staff can be rapidly informed of any potential freezer issues or failures, even if it is outside of normal working hours.
In addition to all of these features, XiltriX collects and stores accurate, real-time data that is vitally important to easily and accurately identify the root cause of any freezer failure.
XiltriX provides peace of mind that your freezers – and all other laboratory equipment – are operating at optimal levels to prevent loss. Even in the unfortunate event of a catastrophic failure, you can rest assured that the XiltriX cloud-based laboratory monitoring solution will inform facility and laboratory managers, as well as any other relevant staff, well in advance of any potential failures.
With so much at stake in life science environments, one easily overlooked mistake could be detrimental to a company. Discover if your lab could be susceptible to potential risks with this quick 10 question analysis.