Laboratory Safety Blog

Ergonomic Improvements to Class III Biological Safety Cabinets

Changes in Class III Biological Safety Cabinets Primary Containment and User Comfort In the 1950’s when Class III BSC became widely used in the nuclear and defense departments the primary focus for design was on absolute containment, with little attention given to ergonomic/user comfort. Class II BSC became popular in the 1970’s and provided the user with an alternate means of primary containment. While Class II BSC do not provide the same level of user and environmental protection, based on a risk assessment they do have a rightful and very useful place in the biocontainment laboratory. In recent years with increasing work conducted at BSL-4 and the advent of samples containing mixed hazards or biological powders, there has been a significant resurgence in the use of Class III BSC in research, public health labs and with emergency responders. It was time for the Class III BSC to be improved upon and redesigned for diverse missions. What has changed for Class III Biosafety Cabinets? Lessons learned from Class II BSC & Biocontainment Lab Design Lessons have been learned and applied regarding enhancements to ergonomics. Some have been taken from the design of Class II BSC such as use of: 10 degree […]

Outlines Rationale for Mobile Labs

The most recent edition of CBRNe WORLD Magazine includes a highly informative article on the rationale for the procurement and deployment of mobile laboratories. The article, authored by Monica Heyl, discusses the use of mobile labs by first responders, military, law enforcement and civil support teams.  Ms. Heyl describes a range of applications for these units: “Mobile laboratories can be integrated to fill a wide variety of challenges: sample receipt, screening and evaluating suspect unknown materials, environmental health protection and remediation, narcotics analysis and confirmation of clandestine laboratories. They can respond to catastrophes, terrorism, and a myriad of other actions in theatres of conflict or on our own homelands.”  The CBRNe World article also discusses the critical role of proper engineering controls in mobile laboratories, stating that: “Engineering controls (primary and secondary) become vital to sample collection, reception, preparation, analysis and spent effluent that could contaminate the environment. Robust engineering controls to include redundant and hybrid filtration systems, breakthrough monitors and backup uninterrupted power are only as good as the quality assurances associated with the development, building, manufacturing and testing of such safeguards.” 
The article, “Mobile Laboratories: Do They Know Their Rank,” by Monica Heyl is available in the Spring 2010 edition of CBRNe World Magazine. *    […]

Welcome to the Laboratory Safety Blog

The Laboratory Safety Blog has been developed to open a dialog and address a variety of topics regarding biological safety. We will cover topics ranging from general issues in biosafety and primary containment to Class III Biological Safety Cabinets as well as innovations in biosafety engineering. The Laboratory Safety Blog serves as a professional forum for biosafety professionals and industrial hygienists, scientists and technicians, architects and engineers, and other professional groups with an interest in laboratory safety. Based on questions we receive on a regular basis, some of the topics we will discuss in the near term include but are not limited to: Defining the standard Class III Biological Safety Cabinet (BSC). Identifying methods to transfer materials. Innovations in transferring lab animals and never breaking containment. Ergonomic improvements of Class III BSC over the past few years. Factors involved in choosing gloves, and an overview of glove availability. Methods of decontaminating a Biological Safety Cabinet. How to prepare a biosafety cabinet for gaseous decontamination. Determining the efficacy of the decontamination process. Explaining how a ventilated or non-ventilated pass through box works and the advantages/disadvantages of each. Various discussions on mobile labs, modular labs and their applications. Discussion of the guidelines […]

Annual Field Testing for Certification of Class III BSC

These recommendations were developed by comparing the various performance tests identified in the standards described in the past two blogs, in an attempt to provide guidance on the development of a comprehensive performance field test. Consideration has also been given to those factors that may affect the ability to conduct a performance test using values in any given specification. Selection of ‘required’ tests as opposed to ‘optional’ tests should be based on a risk assessment that considers safety as well as the work being conducted. Influences to the system include temperature, humidity, altitude (as compared to factory readings), and barometric pressure. These factors can have a large effect on system readings. Routine work with animals as opposed to cell culture may justify measuring noise levels and considering more stringent control of decibels produced. A nuisance noise level to humans may be loud enough to have adverse effects on some species of animal. Annual tests to strongly consider* include: Visual inspection*; Cabinet Integrity Test (Leak rate)* or Negative Pressure Test (rate of rise test) or Positive Pressure Test (pressure decay test); HEPA Filter Leak Test*; In-Rush Protection Test (loss of glove); Air Flow Test (smoke pattern tests); Alarm Tests (airflow and […]

International Performance Standards for Class III BSC

The last blog addressed industry accepted standards for performance testing of Class III Biosafety Cabinet in the US. This blog focuses on other Internationally accepted standards. These standards contain some areas of overlap with US standards and in other areas provide supplemental information. British/European Standard BE EN 12469:2000/EN 12469:2000, 2000 (1) : Class III BSC has a completely enclosed workspace and manometer to show pressure drop (manometer range of -500 Pa to + 500 Pa), (500Pa =2”wg) Supply air single HEPA, exhaust air double HEPA filtered. Each exhaust filter must be able to be independently tested Leak tightness: /= to 0.7 m/s with one glove removed, (0.7 m/s =138 ft/min) Public Health Agency Canada, 2004, (2): PHAC Laboratory Biosafety Manual 3rd Edition 2004: Document Submission Requirements for the Recertification Performance and Verification Testing of Containment Level (CL) 4 Laboratories in Accordance with the Laboratory Biosafety Guidelines, 2004, Public Health Agency of Canada (and where applicable, Containment Standards for Veterinary Facilities, 1996, Canadian Food Inspection Agency) Class III BSC to be tested in accordance with: BS EN 12469:2000: Biotechnology- Performance criteria for microbiological safety cabinets (2000); British Standards Institute Laboratory Safety Monograph: A Supplement to NIH Guidelines for Recombinant DNA Research […]

BioContainment Equipment and Biosafety Training

In biosafety training programs, it is critical that students develop a familiarity with biological safety equipment. In courses and workshops, this can take the form of industry-insider trainings, interactive exercises as well as hands-on experience with the equipment. Industry can play an important role in biosafety training. This goes beyond demonstrating equipment at trade shows and conferences. Germfree’s Class III BSC Training Unit at ABSA Course: “Fundamentals of the Class III Biosafety Cabinet” Class III Biological Safety Cabinets: Importance of Hands-on Training Practical training is particularly useful for students that plan to work in high containment situations. While many students have access to Class II Biosafety Cabinets, too few are able to get hands-on experience with a Class III Biological Safety Cabinet. Class III BSC’s require a familiarization with a wide range of equipment features and configurations such as: Gloves & Gloveports, Pass-throughs / Airlocks, Rapid Transfer Ports, Autoclaves, Decontamination Systems, etc. Germfree maintains a Class III BSC training unit at their headquarters. Germfree also participates in student training programs with other facilities, providing institutions with Class III BSC’s and other bio-containment equipment to give their students hands-on experience and training in proper technique. For example, Germfree’s Biological Safety Cabinets […]

US Performance Standards to Consult When Purchasing a Class III BSC

Class III BSC: Performance Testing Standards There are several prominent industry accepted standards for performance testing of Class III Biosafety Cabinet in the US. These standards contain some areas of overlap, and in many cases one standard contains performance related information not contained in the other standards. The information below provides a brief summary of the highlights as they apply to criteria for US performance testing. A subsequent blog will address international performance standards. 1. National Sanitation Foundation Standard 49, 2008: It is a gas-tight (no leak greater than1x10-7 cc/sec with 1% test gas at 3 inches pressure wg) enclosure with a viewing window that cannot be opened without the use of tools or locks. Access for passage of materials into the cabinet is through a dunk tank, that is accessible through the cabinet floor, or double-door pass-through box (e.g., an autoclave, rapid transfer port, pass through chamber) Both supply and exhaust air are HEPA filtered on a Class III cabinet. Exhaust air must pass through two HEPA filters, or a HEPA filter and an air incinerator, before discharge to the outdoors. Airflow is maintained by an exhaust system exterior to the cabinet, which keeps the cabinet under negative pressure […]

Pass Through Chamber Options in Class III BSC

Pass through chambers provide an easy way of moving supplies and materials in-to and out-of the Class III Biological Safety Cabinet. There are a few options to consider with these devices. To begin with, their interior surfaces should be coved for ease of cleaning, and the exterior of the chamber should not extend into an area where there is foot traffic. The doors must provide an airtight seal to allow of gaseous/vapor decontamination and prevent the leakage of air from the Class III BSC into the laboratory. Doors should also be electronically interlocked to prevent a breach of containment. If they are not electronically interlocked there should be either an alarm light or audible warning to let the user know when one door is open. If they are interlocked, consideration should be given to an override switch that is positioned in a location that would require a deliberate motion for activation. At some point pieces of equipment or tools that exceed the size of the pass through may need to be introduced or removed, hence the desire for an interlock override. This is important if the Biological Safety Cabinet does not have an integral autoclave, or the item can not […]

Turbulent, Laminar and High Velocity Airflow in Class III BSC

What type of airflow should be used in a Class III BSC? Is higher velocity better? Class II BSC vs. Class III BSC Airflow Unlike Class II BSC which employs laminar flow to protect personnel, the Class III Biological Safety Cabinet does not have an open sash in the front, hence does not require laminar airflow to provide personnel protection. The main consideration for laminar air flow in a Class III BSC is for product protection. Laminar flow could be important if an internal process generates copious amounts of aerosol, when work is conducted with fine powders, or if there is a risk of cross-contamination between different procedures being performed in the cabinet. Laminar air flow has a set mass airflow where clean HEPA filtered air comes from one direction at a given speed to entrain particles and carry them directly to the exhaust HEPA. The velocity can be very low, as low as 30 ft/min. However, note that 30 ft/min may cause extremely fine powders to become aerosolized. Generally, Class III Biosafety Cabinets use turbulent air flow designs. In a turbulent airflow design clean HEPA filtered air is continuously supplied to the cabinet where it dilutes the concentration of […]

Prefabricated HVAC Engineering Systems for BSL-3 Labs

The post from January 10thon Mobile and Modular Laboratory Platforms generated an interesting question. The question was, ‘If we can build the BSL-3 lab with local tradecrafts, but do not think there is local experience in HVAC construction and controls, is it possible to purchase the HVAC system in a prefabricated package for delivery and installation’? Yes, it is possible to purchase a prefabricated HVAC system with controls to support a Biosafety Level-3 lab. It will require coordination between the team working on the lab, to include the architect, engineer, and project manager with the supplier of the HVAC system. The supplier in essence is acting as the mechanical engineer and will need access to drawings and specifications to: identify penetrations, connections and site survey details, size the system to accommodate heating and cooling load data, plan for cascading airflow, sensor and damper placement, engineer a system that does not conflict with those services in adjacent spaces in the existing building (i.e. building automated system), harmonize systems when needed (i.e. security control systems, BAS), coordinate electrical and plumbing connections and specifications, and coordinate other aspects related to the HVAC and associated systems during facility design to ensure smooth construction, commissioning […]

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