Understanding The Classifications Of Biological Safety Cabinets

When your job involves the manipulations of infectious microorganisms, you will understand how important a biological safety cabinet (or BSC) is to keeping your workplace safe. This forms the primary means of containment for working safely with infectious microorganisms; without them, contamination would be more of a common occurrence. These cabinets are designed to provide a clean working environment and to provide protection for employees who work with biological hazards; they are successful on both fronts.

The cabinets utilise vertical laminar airflow to create a barrier against airborne particles (such as microorganisms). They also use HEPA filtered air for recirculation over the work area (the HEPA filter removes particles from the air but does not remove chemical fumes; these safety cabinets should not be confused with fume hoods). They are also fitted with an ultraviolet lamp that provides protection against contamination; even so, iodophor should be used to clean and decontaminate the work area.

It is recommended that these cabinets be used for the manipulations of pathogens or antineoplastics that can produce aerosols and for working with all of the airborne transmitted pathogens (such as Brucella abortus, which is found in cattle, and Mycobacterium tuberculosis, better known as tuberculosis). These BSCs are also known to provide a number of other benefits to the lab, such as the reduction of noise levels, a height adjustable stand, panorama side windows and strong but dazzle-free light sources.

There are three classifications for biological safety cabinets; it is completely up to you which one you use in your laboratory.

  • BSCs Class I – This is an open-fronted negative pressure cabinet. The exhaust air from inside is filtered by a HEPA filter. Whilst this class does provide employee and environmental protection, it is not able to provide product protection. The inward flow of air is also known to contribute to the contamination of samples.
  • BSCs Class II – This is an open-fronted ventilated cabinet. It provides a HEPA-filtered, recirculated mass airflow within the workplace. The exhaust air from inside is also filtered by a HEPA filter. This class is able to provide employee, environmental and product protection. They are the most common choice for clinical and research labs.
  • BSCs Class III – This is a completely enclosed ventilated cabinet of gas-tight construction. Any operation within these BSCs occurs through the attached rubber gloves. It is maintained through a negative air pressure of at least 0.5 inches water gauge. Supply air is drawn inside by the HEPA filter, then the exhaust air is filtered by two HEPA filters before being discharged outside of the facility.

When it comes to choosing a biological safety cabinet for your workplace, it is important to take a number of factors into consideration. Firstly, how much protection is required for your employees, the environment and for the product in question? Secondly, what sort of airflow do you require throughout the work space? Thirdly, what sorts of infectious organisms will you be working with? Once you have answered these questions, you will be in a much better position to make a final decision on BSCs.

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