A biosafety cabinet is an essential piece of equipment for any laboratory setting. It's an enclosed, ventilated space where lab workers can safely handle pathogens — lab safety is always a principal concern. While this innocuous little box may seem straightforward, choosing the right one is vital to your lab's operations.
Depending on the research you conduct, you need your biosafety cabinet to provide the appropriate levels of protection, whether for people, the environment or the samples themselves. Investing in the right lab safety cabinet can save money and provide an option more suited to your application.
The Purpose and Role of Safety Cabinets
Knowing what type of biosafety cabinet you need helps you understand its purpose and importance. Biosafety cabinets are the primary method of containment in labs, allowing staff to work with biological hazards safely. Depending on the type of hazard, a biosafety cabinet is designed to shield lab workers from infectious diseases, spores, fungi and pathogenic microorganisms.
A biosafety cabinet is a ventilated enclosure with high-efficiency particulate air or a high-efficiency particulate arresting (HEPA) filter to remove potentially hazardous particles from the air circulating inside. When used correctly, air from the room enters at the front edge of the cabinet surface, providing a protective barrier. This air mixes with the recirculating air from the HEPA filter, creating a contaminate-free zone.
To effectively use a biosafety cabinet, keep the following in mind:
- Keep ultraviolet lights off: Leaving these lights on can damage or burn your skin.
- Minimize airflow disruptions: Keep rapid movements to a minimum, especially in and out of the safety cabinet, and don't block the front grill or rear vents. Anyone working with a biosafety cabinet must work at least 4 inches from the inside edge of the front vent.
- Remove flammable gases and continuous flame devices: Devices such as bunsen burners are prohibited in biosafety cabinets.
How to Choose a Biosafety Cabinet
There are several lab safety cabinet options to choose from, depending on the application. Whether you are buying new or used lab equipment, there are several considerations you should make to ensure you have the equipment best suited to the job. Some tips for choosing the right safety cabinet for your intended use include:
- Safety: Biohazard safety cabinets are designed for safety, but not all features are created equal. Consider significant additions like alarm systems, antimicrobial coatings and air filtration.
- Reliability: Consistent performance is key to safety and accurate results. The last thing you need in a lab is to have high-performance equipment one day and uncertainty the next. Do some research on the most reliable units for your specific application.
- Efficiency: Energy efficiency is also a critical concern. Think about your operating costs and the life expectancy of your cabinet, as well as energy-efficient designs such as LED lighting, filtration efficiency and low-flow modes to boost your overall efficiency and longevity.
- Ergonomics: Laboratory staff spends much time in safety cabinets, so comfort and ease of use are vital considerations. Consider features like adjustable heights, armrests, proper lighting and quiet operation. Paying attention to ergonomics can increase productivity and minimize the risk of injury.
- Price: The cost of your system is always a consideration. Information on the unit's price and the long-term operating costs is essential to make the right decision.
- Size: Whether you have limited lab space or not, the size of your unit is always a principal consideration. Consider how many people will use the cabinet and what equipment needs to fit. With some planning, you could strike the elusive balance between being able to work comfortably and not taking up the whole laboratory.
- Customization: If you have specific needs or limited lab space, customizing your unit can allow you to meet your unique requirements.
- Flexibility: Your cabinet needs to meet your needs now and in the future. Try to balance cabinet versatility while avoiding paying more for features you're unlikely to use.
- Class: The class of cabinet you choose must be appropriate to your specific biohazard safety risks. You need to conduct a thorough safety assessment to ensure your unit is aligned with your needs.
Classes of Lab Safety Cabinets and Their Applications
There are three classes of biosafety cabinets, each designed to fulfill the safety requirements of specific applications. Consider the following when deciding what type of biosafety cabinet you need:
Class I biosafety cabinets protect the personnel and lab environment, not the product. Their containment capability is for low- to moderate-risk biological agents in biosafety levels one to three — biological agents that pose little threat, pathogenic organisms that pose a mid-level hazard and agents that cause severe or fatal disease via aerosol transmission.
This class is suited to enclosing equipment such as centrifuges, and should not be used with research materials that should be handled under sterile conditions.
Class II cabinets protect the product, personnel and equipment for biosafety levels one to three. In other words, the cabinet protects the sample inside from contamination from the outside environment. Unlike Class I cabinets, these options contain a HEPA air filter to protect the sample from cross-contamination.
A Class II cabinet offers an additional layer of safety and is suited to lab scenarios where testing requires a sterile environment for the sample itself. These cabinets are often used in research and clinical laboratory settings.
These highly specialized cabinets are designed for working with biosafety level four infectious agents — dangerous, contagious and life-threatening. They provide the highest level of protection and feature attached rubber gloves used for handling the agent inside. As every effort is made to keep the environment, person and sample safe, Class III cabinets are suited to research laboratories handling dangerous or unknown substances.
Trust New Life Scientific to Find the Best Lab Equipment for You
Choosing the right lab safety cabinet is essential for the safety of your staff, lab and samples. There are many considerations when finding the equipment best suited to your needs, and errors can be unnecessarily costly. New Life Scientific can help you take the guesswork out of your choices. With a wide range of quality used lab equipment and a dedicated, knowledgeable staff, we are always ready to walk you through the process.