Robert Robinson Sr., founder and president of Kaivac Inc., a Hamilton, Ohio-based vacuum manufacturer, was featured in the June 14, 2004, business section of the Chicago Tribune, one of the largest newspapers in the United States.

Robinsonwas asked to discuss a major crisis in his career for the paper’s regular Monday column, "My Biggest Mistake."

The weekly feature asks entrepreneurs, corporate leaders, and business owners to discuss a major business problem, what they learned from it, how it turned out, and steps they have taken to prevent it from happening again.

In the feature, Robinson discusses an accident that occurred several years ago when the KaiVac machine was first introduced. A two-cent O-ring failed, causing the chemical reservoir to explode, injuring a cleaning technician. The custodian was [temporarily] blinded.

The incident caused great anguish for Robinson. "It had never occurred to me that such a thing could happen," says Robinson. "I have always had such respect for cleaning workers; I could not believe the machine that put a smile on so many janitors’ faces could ever injure one."

Luckily, and to the surprise of the custodian’s doctors, his eyesight gradually returned and soon all physical signs of the injury were gone. When Robinson met the injured cleaning worker, instead of anger, he was greeted with a handshake from the custodian who is still using a Kaivac machine today.

According to Robinson, "After the accident, I immediately set-out to find a way to prevent this from happening again. Within three months, a safety system was installed. Since then, we have sold tens of thousands of KaiVac machines and have never had a problem."

The incident also changed the jansan industry. "Now many cleaning equipment manufacturers use a similar safety system on their chemical injection machines," says Robinson. "I feel I have made our industry a little safer because of it."