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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 on the Columbia campus.  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 scheduled by the Biosafety Officer to be certified annually around the same time each year.  Laboratory personnel do not need to schedule their annual certifications. Please notify the Biosafety Officer 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. The PI is responsible for covering all costs associated with any services besides annual certifications in their laboratory. Lab personnel should consult with the Biosafety Office before installing a new cabinet or relocating a cabinet. The University has a primary contact to schedule these services:

Universal Safety Associates, Inc.
Kay Rice – 
Phone: (443) 306-1573

BSC Moving, Lifespan and Decommissioning

Researchers occasionally need to move an installed biosafety cabinet (BSC) to another location within a laboratory or to another laboratory. A BSC must not be moved without first consulting 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 – Informative Annex 1 (Section I-1.10).  Labs must consult with the Biosafety Office prior to decommissioning a BSC.

Biosafety Cabinet Resources

USC Biosafety Cabinet Program Manual [pdf]

Biosafety Cabinetry: Design, Construction, Performance, and Field Certification (NSF/ANSI 49 – Informative Annex 1)

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

Fundamentals of Working Safely in a Biological Safety Cabinet - CDC Training Course
(This is a free online course. You will need to create an account in the CDC TRAIN portal and register for the course.)

Safe Use of Biological Safety Cabinets (ESCO Video)

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

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