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. 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. Any biosafety cabinet services that need to be performed at a different time than the routine 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 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.