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.
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.
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.
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
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:
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.