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Environmental Health and Safety

Biosafety Cabinets

Biosafety cabinets (BSCs) are used at the University as a primary means of containment for working safely with infectious microorganisms. A properly certified and operational biosafety cabinet is an effective engineering control which must be used in concert with appropriate work practices, procedures, and other administrative controls to reduce the risk of exposure to infectious microorganisms. It is important for labs to purchase the proper type of biosafety cabinet for their experiments and to ensure the proper placement of BSCs for installation. The Biosafety Office can provide guidance on the selection, installation, and use of biosafety cabinets.

Certification Requirements

Biosafety cabinets must be tested and certified at least annually to ensure continued proper operation. All Class II BSCs will be tested and certified in accordance with specifications in NSF Standard 49 and the manufacturer’s specifications. The NSF 49 establishes minimum requirements for materials, design, construction, and performance of biosafety cabinets that are designed to provide personnel, product, and environmental protection. The operational integrity must be validated by certification before a newly installed BSC is used and after a BSC has been repaired or relocated. After a BSC has been certified, a label will be prominently affixed to the front of the BSC, displaying the date of certification and name of the certifier.

Gas Decontamination

BSCs that have been used for work involving infectious materials must be decontaminated before HEPA filters are changed or internal repair work is done. BSCs must be decontaminated prior to decommissioning and salvaging. Before a BSC is relocated, a risk assessment considering the agents manipulated within the BSC must be performed to determine the appropriate method for decontamination.

Certification Vendor

The Biosafety Office manages the University’s contract for the annual certification of all biosafety cabinets. Technical Safety Services is the approved vendor for performing the annual certification of biosafety cabinets, including any required maintenance or repairs. 

Biosafety cabinets on the University’s Columbia campus and School of Medicine-Columbia campus are certified annually around the same time each year. The vendor will perform all certifications the same week, so laboratory personnel do not need to schedule their annual certifications. Please notify the Biosafety Office if your biosafety cabinet is overdue for certification. The Biosafety Office covers the cost for annual certification of biosafety cabinets in research laboratories on the Columbia campus. At the completion of annual certifications, the vendor submits an invoice directly to the Biosafety Office for processing and payment.

Any biosafety cabinet services other than annual certifications will need to be scheduled directly with the vendor. This may include gas decontaminations, repairs, or the certification of new or relocated cabinets after installation.  Labs are responsible for covering all costs associated with any services outside of annual certifications. The University has two primary contacts to schedule these services:

Technical Safety Services, LLC
Kathy Stewart – KStewart@techsafety.com
Eric Cicciari – ECicciari@techsafety.com
Phone: (919) 957-4141

BSC Moving, Lifespan and Decommissioning

It is a common practice to move permanently installed biosafety cabinets (BSCs) to other locations within a laboratory or to other laboratories.  BSCs should not be moved without consultation with the Biosafety Office.

The current lifespan of a BSC is approximately 15 years. After 15 years, replacement parts may or may not be available due to electrical or mechanical changes at the factory or industrial part suppliers. BSCs have evolved through the years with many improvements in containment, ergonomics, serviceability, and energy efficiency. These issues should be considered when making decisions on BSC repair versus replacement.

No BSC should be sent to a landfill or a recycling facility as a BSC, it should be disassembled per requirements contained in the NSF/ANSI 49 Standard – Annex E (Section E.10).  Labs must consult with the Biosafety Office prior to decommissioning a BSC.

Biosafety Cabinet Resources

UofSC Biosafety Cabinet Program Manual [pdf]

Biosafety Cabinetry: Design, Construction, Performance, and Field Certification (NSF/ANSI 49 – Annex E) [pdf]

Biosafety Cabinet Placement Requirements for New Buildings and Renovations [pdf]

Working Safely in Your Biological Safety Cabinet (ESCO Posters)

Safe Use of Biological Safety Cabinets (ESCO Video)

Protection of Vacuum Systems Used in Tissue Culture Work [pdf]


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