Attempt to Repair Malfunctioning Cryostat Results in Cut to Finger

What Happened?

A researcher was sectioning frozen skin specimens using a cryostat. During the sectioning process, the machine malfunctioned. Being under pressure to deliver the specimens for analysis, the researcher attempted to repair the machine. When he tried to adjust the cryostat blade, he cut his index finger. The standard operating procedure mandates to have the instrument repaired by a professional technician. No backup cryostat is available in the facility; however, there are cryostats available off-site. The malfunctioning cryostat was later repaired by a contracted servicing company. The cryostat is inspected daily before use by a technician.

What Was The Cause?

This accident was caused by a combination of inexperience in repairing the instrument and work pressure to produce a specimen.

What Corrective Actions Were Taken?

  • Review cryostat operation procedures

How Can Incidents Like This Be Prevented?

  • Never service any potentially hazardous equipment without formal training by a certified technician
  • If potentially hazardous equipment malfunctions, use other available equipment; request help from your supervisor if you are under work pressure
  • Cover the cutting edge of the blade with a guard whenever you manipulate inside the cryochamber including changing a specimen, or during breaks
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when servicing equipment for routine required maintenance; e.g. changing blades or general cleaning



When you get hurt in the lab or on campus

  1. Seek medical attention if needed
  2. Report the incident to your supervisor



  • Blade to cut specimen is extremely sharp
  • Specimen may contain infectious agent