The biological safety cabinet (BSC) is an engineering control designed to provide protection to personnel, the research, and the environment when appropriate practices and procedures are followed. It is the primary means of containment developed for working safely with infectious microorganisms, so proper setup and operation is essential.
An open flame in a BSC creates turbulence which disrupts the pattern of HEPA-filtered air supplied to the work surface. Furthermore, the recirculation of flammable gases presents an explosion hazard. Use of open flames and gas burners in BSCs is strongly discouraged. 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. Small electric "furnaces" or “bead sterilizers” are available for decontaminating bacteriological loops and needles and are preferable to an open flame inside the BSC. Disposable sterile loops can also be used. When using the house vacuum system for aspiration, hydrophobic filters should be inserted in the tubing between the overflow flask and the vacuum nozzle to prevent contamination of the vacuum system.
The biosafety cabinet requires regular maintenance and certification by a professional technician to assure that it protects you, your experiments, and the environment. Each cabinet shall be certified when it is installed, each time it is moved or repaired, and at least annually. Annual HEPA filter testing and certification of BSCs is a requirement under the NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant and Synthetic Nucleic Acid Molecules (Appendix G-II-C-4-j).
If a BSC needs to be relocated outside of its current location (either for disposal, storage, or re-use in another lab), it must first be professionally decontaminated with either formaldehyde gas or vaporized hydrogen peroxide (VHP). Additionally, the Biosafety Office needs to be notified when a BSC is to be moved.
Please note, the costs of certification, decontamination, repairs, or replacement of HEPA filters is not paid by ESSR. Contact the Biosafety Office at (301) 405-6513 to schedule repairs, decontaminations, BSC moves, or annual recertification, or with any other questions.