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Biological Safety Cabinets

Biological Safety Cabinets and other primary containment devices are an essential component of conducting biomedical research. As a primary safety barrier, the effectiveness of the BSC is limited by the techniques employed by the researcher (e.g. good microbiological techniques), an understanding of how the cabinet functions, and the location of the biological safety cabinet within the facility. As a general rule, keep biosafety cabinets away from doors, high traffic areas and supply diffusers. EHS Biosafety can provide consultation and guidance on the selection, operation and use that meet your specific research needs.

For more guidance, see the CDC publication Primary Containment for Biohazards: Selection, Installation and Use of Biological Safety Cabinets.

You will find the following on this page:

BSC Certifications

BSCs are required to be certified annually or when moved or repaired. EHS Biosafety provides a centralized system to reduce cost, and improve service to the research community.

All testing and certification services for research and clinical laboratories will be provided by Precision Air, Inc. EHS will work with Precision Air, Inc. to ensure that all biosafety cabinets at the medical center or on grounds are certified annually and maintained in safe working condition. Additionally, a second vendor, JP Certifications, will provide certification services exclusively for the Center for Comparative Medicine and areas within the main hospital (i.e., Pharmacy, Clinical Lab, etc.).

Who schedules certifications?
  • EHS maintains a centralized database of all BSCs at UVa. The database is used by EHS to coordinate annual certification of BSCs with the appropriate vendor prior to the BSC recertification due date. Vendors are instructed to schedule BSC recertification with laboratory personnel within the month that the certification is due; however, laboratory personnel are ultimately responsible for ensuring that BSCs are certified prior to expiration. Please contact EHS (434-982-4911) if you would like to verify that a vendor has been scheduled to recertify your BSC.
  • For emergency calls (including repairs) any of the eligible vendors may be contacted. There are several important facts to consider:
What is covered?
  • Testing and certification services are paid for by EHS through a research overhead account. At the completion of services, vendors will submit an invoice directly to EHS for processing and payment.
  • *NEW* Gas Decontamination Services for lab moves/relocations. To better ensure when gas decontamination is necessary to safely move or relocate a BSC, EHS will cover this cost for research labs. Please consult with EHS to determine if a gas decon is necessary.
    Note: gas decontamination for repairs and other services including HEPA filter changes are not covered (see below).
  • Non-research organizations (i.e., hospital and non-research clinical departments) are back-charged through Oracle cost transfer.
    Note: Clinical departments still benefit indirectly by obtaining competitive, bulk service rates.
What is not covered?
  • Repairs, expendable parts (e.g. HEPA filter changes, motors, light tubes, etc.), and labor charges. If a gas decon is necessary for repairs or a HEPA filter change, the lab must cover this cost. These may also be back-charged by Oracle cost transfer, however vendors may request a PTAO up front for services not covered.
    Note: Vendor prices will vary and therefore, it is essential to communicate with the vendor contact to provide quotes for associated costs.

Vendors for Research or Clinical Laboratories

UVa Environmental Health & Safety
Contact: Jenni Branum
Email (preferred): jmw4qs@virginia.edu
Office Phone: (434) 982-4989
Cell Phone: (434) 531-2898
Technicians: Greg Harp and Dwight Smith (NSF certified)

Precision Air Technology, Inc.
Contact: Jeff Anderson
Email (preferred): jeff@precisionairtechnology.com
Phone: (919) 812-5168
Alternate Contact: Kevin Heathcock
Email: kevin@precisionairtechnology.com
Phone: (919) 369-5564
P.O. Box 46449
Raleigh, NC 27620
Fax: (801) 740-3346

Vendors for Center for Comparative Medicine and Main Hospital Areas*

JP Certifications, Inc.
Contact: Joe Martz
Email (preferred): joemartz123@gmail.com
Phone: (703) 620-3325
Fax: (703) 620-4765
11921 Waples Mill Road
Oakton, VA 22124
(*Pharmacy, Hospital Clinical Laboratory, Labs/Clinics within main hospital building)

Vendors for repairs

Contact either vendor listed below:

JP Certifications, Inc.
Contact: Joe Martz
Email (preferred): joemartz123@gmail.com
Phone: (703) 620-3325
Fax: (703) 620-4765
11921 Waples Mill Road
Oakton, VA 22124
(*Pharmacy, Hospital Clinical Laboratory, Labs/Clinics within main hospital building)

Precision Air Technology, Inc.
Contact: Jeff Anderson
Email (preferred): jeff@precisionairtechnology.com
Phone: (919) 812-5168
Alternate Contact: Kevin Heathcock
Email: kevin@precisionairtechnology.com
Phone: (919) 369-5564
P.O. Box 46449
Raleigh, NC 27620
Fax: (801) 740-3346

Biological Safety Cabinet FAQ's

Who do I contact about getting a BSC?
Contact University of Virginia Procurement Services to determine pricing with UVa contract vendors or select an individual BSC manufacturer.

More information can be found by searching under Lab Equip/Supplies/Services - Lab Casework, Fume Hoods & Accessories

What type of BSC do I need?
The type of BSC needed is determined by the type of material that you wish to use in the BSC.  Contact EHS (434-982-4911) if you are unsure about the type of BSC you need.

A Class II, A2 Biosafety Cabinet is recommended and the most common type of BSC in use, as it is appropriate for most biohazardous work applications. Class II BSC provide personnel protection from biohazardous materials using HEPA filtered air prior to release into the room, in addition to providing product protection (to maintain sterility).  Information on specific classes and types of Biosafety Cabinets can be found at www.cdc.gov/biosafety/publications/bmbl5/BMBL5_appendixA.pdf

Should my Class II A2 BSC be thimble connected to the building exhaust system?
For most applications, it is not necessary to connect a Class II A2 BSC to the building ventilation system. Class II A2 cabinets are designed to be “convertible” units and can be connected to the ventilation system using a thimble connection designed with an air gap. This is recommended only in certain situations that merit connection to the HVAC system. Contact EHS (434-982-4911) and Facilities Management before having any BSC connected (or disconnected) to the building exhaust system.

Are the UV lights in my BSC effective as a secondary disinfectant?
Ultraviolet (UV) lamps are not recommended in BSCs nor are they necessary. If installed, UV lamps must be cleaned weekly to remove any dust and dirt that may block the germicidal effectiveness of the ultraviolet light. The lamps should be checked weekly with a UV meter to ensure that the appropriate intensity of UV light is being emitted. UV lamps must be turned off when the room is occupied to protect eyes and skin from UV exposure, which can burn the cornea and cause skin cancer. If the cabinet has a sliding sash, close the sash when operating the UV lamp.
Reference: http://www.cdc.gov/biosafety/publications/bmbl5/BMBL5_appendixA.pdf

Can I use a clean bench for biohazardous work? Laminar Flow Cabinets, sometimes referred to as Clean Benches, may be used for work with materials that are non-infectious. No infectious work (human cell lines, infectious microorganisms, toxins, or animal work) should be performed in Laminar Flow Cabinets. They are not recommended as they provide only product protection, and in effect, blow air from the cabinet into the user’s face providing no personnel protection.

Should my BSC be hard ducted or thimble connected to the building exhaust system?
For most applications, it is not necessary to connect a BSC to the building ventilation system. However, certain types of Class II cabinetry require a hard-duct connection to the building ventilation system. These include Class II Type B1 and B2 cabinets and are only recommended in specific situations involving the use of certain volatile chemicals or radioactive materials. Contact EHS (434-982-4911) for information on when a hard-ducted cabinet is necessary.

Class II A2 cabinets are designed to be "convertible" units and can be connected to the ventilation system using a thimble connection designed with an air gap. This is recommended only in certain situations that merit connection to the HVAC system. Contact EHS (434-982-4911) and Facilities Management before having any BSC connected to the building exhaust system.

Note: In most cases, a recirculating Class II A2 cabinet is the most appropriate choice for UVa researchers.

Why must my BSC be certified?
BSC are the primary containment device used to protect the worker, product and environment from exposure to biohazardous agents. The accepted standard is the NSF 49, which overall, serves to validate the design, operation, and testing of biological safety cabinets. The purpose of testing and certification is to ensure the balance of inflow and exhaust air, the distribution of air onto the work surface, and the integrity of the cabinet 1.

How often must my BSC be certified?
BSC must be certified at the time of installation and annually thereafter. The BSC must be re-certified after it has been moved or when repaired (e.g., HEPA filter replacement).

How do I get my BSC certified?
UVa provides an in-house program through EHS, as well as contracts with outside vendors for testing and certification services. For more information see above.

Note: Units with certification stickers may display an outdated or incorrect vendor contact. Information listed above should be used to contact a vendor.

What if I need to get my BSC repaired?
Contact any of the eligible vendors listed above.

Does my BSC need to be decontaminated?
Contact any of the eligible BSC vendors listed above to decontaminate the BSC and perform decontamination of all work surfaces with an appropriate disinfectant before servicing. Remove all equipment, sharps and waste from the BSC.

How do I get my BSC gas decontaminated?
Decontamination of the BSC using a gas decontamination method (e.g., para-formaldehyde gas or hydrogen peroxide vapor) may be necessary based on the agents used.

You should first contact EHS for a risk assessment, followed by contacting the BSC vendor for service.  Prior to vendor servicing, perform surface decontamination of all work surfaces (including grilles, drain pan, inside of sash, etc.) with an appropriate chemical disinfectant. Remove all equipment, sharps and waste from the BSC.

What if I need to move my BSC? Or dispose of it?
In many cases, the BSC must be gas decontaminated prior to being moved, stored, or disposed of in order to protect personnel from any potential exposure to biohazardous materials.

Contact any of the eligible BSC vendors listed above for decontamination service.

Once decontaminated, EHS will certify that the unit is ready to be moved and will provide the lab with a sticker indicating that the BSC is safe to move.

Contact Facilities Management to move the unit once it has been cleared by EHS. If moving to a new location, the BSC must be re-certified in the new location prior to use. 

Working Safely in the BSC

Instructions on the proper use of the Biological Safety Cabinet (BSC)

Biological Safety Cabinets (BSC) must be certified annually and whenever moved. BSC are certified by an in-house or outside contractor at no cost to the Principal Investigator. EHS Biosafety provides a list of designated, NSF-certified vendors from which to choose. Laboratory staff are responsible for coordinating BSC certification service directly with EHS or the vendor.

  1. Biosafety cabinets are designed to be operated 24 hours a day, and for frequent work with BSL-2 agents in the BSC, it is recommended that blowers remain on at all times.
  2. If it is necessary to turn off the blower, allow sufficient time to purge airborne contaminants from the work area (Centers for Disease Control and the Public Health Agency of Canada recommend a minimum of 5 minutes before and 5 minutes after work, taking into account sufficient time for settling of aerosols).
  3. Minimize other activities in the room (e.g., rapid movement, open/closing room doors, etc.) to avoid disrupting the cabinet air barrier.
  4. Laboratory coats are worn buttoned over street clothing; gloves are worn to provide hand protection.
  5. Before beginning work, the investigator must adjust the stool height so that his/her face is above the front opening.
  6. Plastic-backed absorbent toweling can be placed on the work surface (but not on the front or rear grille openings). This toweling facilitates routine cleanup and reduces splatter and aerosol formation during an overt spill.
  7. Closure of the drain valve under the work surface must be done prior to beginning work so that all contaminated materials are contained within the cabinet should a large spill occur.
  8. Place necessary materials in the BSC before beginning work. This serves to minimize the number of arm-movement disruptions across the air barrier of the cabinet. All materials must be placed as far back in the cabinet as practical, toward the rear edge of the work surface and away from the front grille of the cabinet.
  9. The front grille must not be blocked with research notes, discarded plastic wrappers, pipeting devices, etc.
  10. Aspirator suction flasks must contain an appropriate disinfectant, and a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) in-line filter. This combination will provide protection to the central building vacuum system or vacuum pump, as well as to the personnel who service this equipment. Inactivation of aspirated materials can be accomplished by placing sufficient chemical decontamination solution such as bleach, into the flask to kill the microorganisms as they are collected. Once inactivation occurs, liquid materials can be disposed of as noninfectious waste.
  11. Horizontal pipette discard trays containing an autoclave bag or an appropriate chemical disinfectant should be used within the cabinet. Upright pipette collection containers placed on the floor outside the cabinet or autoclavable biohazard collection bags taped to the outside of the cabinet should not be used. The frequent inward/outward movement needed to place objects in these containers is disruptive to the integrity of the cabinet air barrier and can compromise both personnel and product protection.
  12. All operations should be performed on the work surface at least four (4) inches from the inside edge of the front grille.
  13. Active work should flow from the clean to contaminated area across the work surface. Bulky items such as biohazard bags, discard pipette trays and suction collection flasks must be placed to one side of the interior of the cabinet.
  14. Use of glass Pasteur pipettes is discouraged. Glass pipettes should be replaced with safer alternatives (i.e., plastic) as recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health in Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories, 5th Edition Fifth Edition and by The World Health Organization Biosafety Manual. Contact EHS Biosafety for more information on safer alternatives.
  15. Open flames (i.e., Bunsen burners) are rarely necessary in the near microbe-free environment of a biological safety cabinet and are an artifact left over from usage of A1 cabinets (e.g., provided only personnel, not produce protection) several decades ago. An open flame creates turbulence that disrupts the pattern of HEPA-filtered air supplied to the work surface. When deemed absolutely necessary, touch-plate microburners equipped with a pilot light to provide a flame on demand may be used. Internal cabinet air disturbance and heat buildup will be minimized. The burner must be turned off when work is completed. Microincinerators (electric) are the best alternative for use in the BSC.
  16. Use of ultraviolet light (UV) in the BSC is strongly discouraged. UV bulbs in the BSC must be cleaned and monitored regularly, as dust and debris inhibit effectiveness as well as gradual degradation of the UV bulb over time and should never be used as a primary or sole means of disinfecting the unit. Therefore, chemical surface disinfection must be the primary means of decontaminating the BSC.
  17. Clean Up: Upon completion of work, the final surface decontamination of the cabinet must include a wipe-down of the interior surfaces. Investigators must remove their gloves and gowns in a manner to prevent contamination of unprotected skin and aerosol generation and wash their hands as the final step in safe microbiological practice. Investigators must determine the appropriate method of decontaminating materials that will be removed from the BSC at the conclusion of the work.
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