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Environmental Health and Safety

Biological Safety Cabinets

Biological safety cabinets (BSCs) are used at the University as a primary means of containment for working safely with infectious microorganisms. A properly certified and operational biological safety 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. The Biosafety Office can provide guidance on the selection, installation and use of biological safety cabinets.

Certification Requirements

Biological safety 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 biological safety cabinets. Technical Safety Services is the approved vendor for performing the annual certification of biological safety cabinets, including any required maintenance or repairs.  You can contact the vendor directly at:

Eric Sparks
Technical Safety Services, LLC
Phone: 856-449-2226 

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.

Biological Safety Cabinet Resources

USC Biological Safety 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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