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Containment and Safety

August 31, 2018

biosafety cabinet (BSC)—also called a biological safety cabinet or microbiological safety cabinet—is an enclosed, ventilated laboratory workspace for safely working with materials contaminated with (or potentially contaminated with) pathogens requiring a defined biosafety level. Biological safety cabinets are designed to:

  • Protect personnel and the environment from biological agents
  • Ensures the validity of research and scientific findings by providing a sterile work environment

According to CALOSHA the proper maintenance of cabinets used for work at all biosafety levels cannot be over emphasized. A BSC must be routinely inspected and tested by trained personnel, following strict protocols, to verify it is working properly.

Specifically, CALOSHA requires BSC equipment be tested annually (this is also suggested by equipment manufacturers) but many labs have equipment tested every 6 months.

     CALOSHA Regulations
     §5154.1. Ventilation Requirements for Laboratory

     §5154.2. Ventilation Requirements for Biological Safety Cabinets.


Many companies place a high premium on workplace safety and want to operate seamlessly without delays. Catching equipment problems early can prevent workplace injury or risk that can cause significant downtime. Furthermore, workplace contaminations can ruin long term experiments where results are difficult to replicate or recover. It is a good practice for labs to certify their BSCs every six months. Certifying every six months minimizes the probability of a BSC going out of tolerance during clinical or research operations.

Many BSCs are designed for 24-hour per day operation and some laboratories find that continuous operation helps to control the laboratory’s level of dust and other airborne particulates. Therefore, ventilated laboratory equipment that runs 24 hours/day may require more frequent testing and certifications.

The operational integrity of a BSC must be validated before it is placed into service and after it has been repaired or relocated, even if the move is slight. Relocation may break the HEPA filter seals or otherwise damage the filters or the cabinet. A variation in the voltage output of an electrical outlet can cause voltage to the BSC motor to change resulting in different airflows.