Biosafety Cabinet Maintenance - Thinking Inside the Box by Christopher Aston – Biological Safety Program

When properly maintained and used, biosafety cabinets (BSCs) protect users from exposure to infectious materials and prevent contamination of research material. They must be certified annually, or following relocation, to ensure the integrity of the HEPA filter and blower motor. Individual laboratories are responsible for arranging this service through an outside vendor. The list of University-approved vendors for this service can be found @ http://www.ehs.columbia.edu/ bsccert.html. Some self-performed maintenance can also help ensure that your BSC is functioning correctly and remains free of contamination. After a certification, take note of the magnehelic gauge reading, and consider placing a mark there. Check the gauge before each use; any significant change in pressure may indicate that the BSC is not operating effectively and that a maintenance call to an approved vendor is warranted.

Most BSCs have a removable work surface tray and front grille. Researchers are often surprised to see how dirty the space underneath can get. Puddles of tissue culture media and even pipette tips inadvertently dropped through the grille (by users who do not pipette with their hands well inside the cabinet and over a collection tray) can lead to the prolific growth of microbial life. A schedule for periodic removal and cleaning of the space underneath with 10% bleach followed by 70% ethanol is recommended to avoid contamination of valuable tissue culture experiments. The drain valve under the work surface can facilitate cleaning. It's best to empty the BSC of materials after each use, but if vacuum flasks for aspiration are maintained inside the cabinet, frequent replacement of disinfectant and cleaning of these vessels will also reduce the likelihood of contamination. Compression of the Tygon tubing may indicate that the in-line HEPA filter needs replacement. Many tissue culture contamination problems stem from incorrect use or maintenance of BSCs. EH&S is available for consultation (contact biosafety@columbia.edu).

BS cabunet cabinet

Summer Students and Interns

As spring and summer breaks approach, EH&S would like to remind the research community about the University's policy, Guidelines for Short-term Visitors in Research-Related Activities (policy found at http://evpr.columbia.edu/ content/selected-policies), regarding the presence of both minors and interns in laboratories. The policy includes special provisions for minors, defined as individuals less than 18 years of age, performing research-related activities in University laboratories. Please also review the following:

  • A Registration Form and Parental Consent Form must signed by a parent or guardian of the minor volunteer or observer, prior to them performing any research related activities.
  • No one under the age of 14 is allowed in any University laboratory (except if present on an organized tour or field trip for strictly observational purposes, provided hazards are minimized).
  • Provided there is direct supervision by the principle investigator, minors between ages 14 and 17 may perform certain research-related activities in lab, provided the applicable safety training is complete.

No one under the age of eighteen is allowed to be alone in a laboratory, handle human blood, human cell lines or any other material defined as "other potentially infectious materials" by OSHA (Bloodborne Pathogens Standard 29 CFR 1910.1030), handle radioactive materials, or work directly with vertebrate animals or enter Institute for Comparative Medicine facilities where such animals are housed. Visit @ http://evpr.columbia.edu/content/selected-policies .

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