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Key Considerations When Purchasing Your Biological Safety Cabinet

The purchase of a biological safety cabinet should be made with much consideration. These cabinets serve as the Primary Engineering Control as the first line of defense in providing personnel, environmental and/or product protection against biohazards and potentially harmful agents in a range of laboratory, research, clinical and industrial settings. To ensure that your laboratory is functioning properly at a high safety level, providing a high-level biological safety cabinet that helps facilitate an optimum working environment -- requires doing some investigation. A clear understanding of the important role these cabinets play in research and clinical environments will help ensure your laboratory is prepared to make sound, fact-based decisions regarding the biological safety cabinets that will best meet your current and anticipated needs.

What is the value of a biological safety cabinet?

So why a biological safety cabinet? And why is it required to be knowledgeable about the cabinet before making a decision on what type of cabinet to purchase?

Laboratory safety or the need to protect personnel and the environment from exposure to biohazards has never been more pressing. In our increasingly globalized world, a range of factors has increased the potential risks that biohazards pose. Today’s antibiotic-resistant bacteria like Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) as well as rapidly mutating viruses, such as Ebola or HN51, pose an increasing risk to laboratory personnel safety. Meanwhile, increased international trade also means considerably more transportation of biohazards to testing labs and research centers with a greater chance of a pathogen being improperly handled and people being exposed. Recently, the risk of laboratory exposure made headlines with two incidents at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) laboratories. The CDC announced improper handling of anthrax and avian flu at its laboratories. The agency has since released a full report on the incidents and announced new actions and procedures that have been implemented to reduce the possibility of future problems. However, the incidents provide an urgent call-to-action to ensure that laboratories, and other environments in which biological materials are handled, have performed a relevant risk assessment, procure proper state-of-the-art engineering controls, and increase vigilance to mitigate contamination exposure that would potentially put personnel, the environment and others at risk.

Laboratory safety starts with a risk assessment and is followed closely with engineering controls. The primary being the biological safety cabinet that plays a key role in ensuring that infectious “microorganisms” and potentially harmful particulates and/or aerosols can be handled safety.

Specifically, biological safety cabinets commonly use High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters for biohazards in their exhaust and/or supply systems to provide safe, particle-free air. It is these cabinets that provide a safe, secure way of handling materials until they can be used properly or disposed of according to industry guidelines.