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Biological Safety Cabinet Safety 

A Biological Safety Cabinets (BSC) is an enclosed, ventilated laboratory workspace for safely working with materials contaminated with (or potentially contaminated with) pathogens requiring a defined biosafety level. Several different types of BSC exist, differentiated by the degree of bio-containment required.

The purpose of a BSC is to serve as the primary means to protect the laboratory worker and the surrounding environment from pathogens. All exhaust air is HEPA-filtered as it exits the biosafety cabinet, removing harmful bacteria and viruses.  Most classes of BSCs have a secondary purpose to maintain the sterility of materials inside. This is in contrast to a laminar flow clean bench, which blows unfiltered exhaust air towards the user and is not safe for work with pathogenic agents.  Likewise, a chemical fume hood fails to provide the environmental protection that HEPA filtration in a BSC would provide.  BSCs are not safe for use for chemical vapors

The selection of a Biological Safety Cabinet is based on the potential hazard of the agent used in the experiment, the potential of the laboratory technique to produce aerosols, and the need to protect the experiment from airborne contamination. The similarities and differences in protection offered by the various classes of BSCs and considerations pertinent to BSC selection are provided in the Laboratory Safety Manual.

Contact the university’s Biological Safety Officer regarding the proper selection of a biological safety cabinet. 

Proper Use of Biological Safety Cabinets

  • Obtain approval from the Office of Radiation Safety at 215-762-4050 prior to using radioactive materials within the cabinet.
  • Do not use gas burners or alcohol flames in biosafety cabinets.
  • Keep rear exhaust and front air intake grilles unobstructed so as not to hamper proper airflow into and within the cabinet.
  • Do not modify or tamper the biological safety cabinet alarm, sash, electrical, etc. All modifications must be reviewed and performed by a qualified individual.
  • Do not store boxes or other materials on top of the cabinet.
  • Turn off the ultraviolet (UV) light while working in the laboratory.
  • Allow cabinet to run five minutes each day prior to use.
  • Wipe down the work surface of the hood with disinfectant (10% bleach, 70% ethanol or Alcide) before beginning work and after finishing the work.
  • Decontaminate any objects that were used inside the cabinet.
  • Segregate sterile and contaminated items.
  • Use horizontal pipette discard pans that contain an effective disinfectant solution inside the cabinet and not use vertical pipette canisters placed on the floor outside of the cabinet.
  • Waste bags shall be placed in the rear of the cabinet and not taped onto the front of the cabinet.
  • Place all equipment which may produce air turbulence (e.g., centrifuge) near the rear of the hood and stop all other work while this equipment is running;
  • Use vacuum filters and traps on the intake end of all vacuum systems.
  • Minimize movement in and around the cabinet.
  • Use proper personal hygiene to prevent product and user contamination.