Key people: Harry Stoorvogel

Technical support employee Harry Stoorvogel has to shower several times a day.
Photo: Guy Ackerman

They are indispensable on campus: the cleaners, caretakers, caterers, gardeners, receptionists – the list is long. Resource tracks down these key people. This time, meet Harry Stoorvogel (62), who provides technical support at Wageningen Bioveterinary Research in Lelystad.

‘I trained in mechanical engineering at a vocational training college. After that I worked for an installation company in Zodiac for nine years. Then came the energy crisis and there was less work, so I was seconded to WUR’s Central Veterinary Institute in Lelystad. I’ve been there for 35 years now, in the steam technology department of the mechanical engineering group. I do maintenance and the follow-up on breakdowns, and I manage installations like the sterilizers and the wastewater treatment. I work between the contaminated part of the institute with the lab animals, and the uncontaminated part. That means I have to shower several times a day. I used to think that was a bother, as it easily takes up a couple of hours a day, but it’s all part of a day’s work to me now. I also spend a lot of time on protocols and quality requirements, which means working at the computer a lot. As a result, I feel I don’t make as much progress as I would like with my work on the installations.

I have to shower several times a day

Nowadays, lab animals have to have natural flooring, with sawdust and straw rather than concrete or rubber. As a result, the wastewater system gets blocked, because it can’t cope with so much solid matter. Luckily, the system has never overflowed, but it has sometimes been touch and go whether we could still have a shower or whether the whole lot had to be shut down. As a precaution, the solid matter now gets  sterilized with the dead animals in the destruction tank.

I sometimes find it upsetting to work with lab animals, especially if I have to be in a corridor just when the animals are euthanized. Then I’d rather wait an hour. But I remind myself it is for the greater good.

I’ve been a corporate first aider for 20 years too. The worst thing I witnessed was a lad who cut his throat with a grinder, and I could see the muscle. I was amazed that I kept my cool, applied a pressure bandage and called 112.

I’m supposed to work until I’m 67, but because of my hereditary kidney disease, I need a lighter workload. I still work six hours a day now. Once I turn 65, I’ll have had enough.

If I could have my career over again, I’d be a woodworker – the technology for that has always appealed to me.’

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