The University of Iowa

Biological Safety Cabinet Policy

Environme​ntal Health & Safety Biological Safety Cabinet

Certification and Decontamination 


Biological safety cabinets (BSCs) are among the most common and effective primary containment devices used in laboratories to protect individuals from splashes and aerosols when working with biological agents. Properly maintained BSCs, when used in conjunction with good microbiological technique, provide aneffective containment system for the safe manipulation of low, moderate, and high risk microorganisms (Risk Groups 1-3).  BSCs require regular maintenance by professional technicians to ensure they function properly and provide the necessary protection to personnel, product and the environment.


BSC: BSCs are primary containment workstations that provide personnel, product, and environmental protection.

Certification: On-site testing that meets the field test criteria using the most recent edition of the NSF International Standard 49, Class II (Laminar Flow) Biohazard Cabinetry, Appendix F. Certification ensures functional operation and integrity of the BSC and shall only be performed by NSF-certified technicians.

Decontamination: Decontamination of a BSC is performed to render it noninfectious and is achieved by exposing the work surfaces, exhaust filters, surfaces of the air plenums, and the fan unit to formaldehyde or hydrogen peroxide gas. The decontamination procedure is described in Annex G of the NSF/ANSI Standard 49. This procedure shall only be done by qualified technicians due to the potential for exposure to biohazardous agents and the chemicals used. The use of an alternative method requires approval of EHS’sBiosafety Officer prior to implementation. 

  1. SCOPE:

This policy applies to any principal investigator, researcher, owner or assigned individual who uses or has responsibility in the use of a BSC. This policy also applies to outside contractors who certify, maintain and decontaminate BSCs.


Environmental Health & Safety Office (EHS), Biosafety Section

  • Shall serve as the program administrator of the contract between the University and the certification company.
  • Shall serve as the primary contact for research and hospital staff needing routine maintenance and repair services for BSC equipment. 
  • Shall assist in the selection of a BSC that is appropriate for the containment application.
  • Shall provide an evaluation of any written request for a waiver from BSC decontamination in consultation with the contracted company. 
  • Shall approve the use of alternative decontamination methods that have been thoroughly investigated and validated by professionals in biosafety and the BSC manufacturing industry. 
  • Shall approve test methods used to validate the successful decontamination of BSCs. 

Principal investigator, researcher, owner, or assigned individual

  • Shall ensure that necessary certification/decontamination is performed, and that the BSC is not used unless properly maintained according to this policy.
  • Shall ensure BSCs are certified after initial installation, after being moved, and at least annually.
  • Shall ensure that the cabinet is decontaminated before it is relocated, repaired or taken out-of-service unless a waiver has been approved by EHS and the contracting company.
  • Shall notify the Biosafety staff at 335-8501 prior to modifying a BSC in any way.
  • Subordinate staff are advised that the use of a BSC is safe only if it is maintained according to this policy.  

Contracting company 

  • Technicians shall decontaminate and field test to certify BSCs following the most recent NSF/ANSI Standard.
  • Technicians shall provide copies of decontamination and certification test reports to the ABSO and the principal investigator, owner or assigned individual for work that is performed on each BSC. Reports shall documentthe tests that were performed, their results and whether the cabinet  passed or failed certification.
  • Technicians shall verify that each BSC has been effectively decontaminated by utilizing an EHS-approved test procedure, maintain a log of the test results, and provide a copy of the verification test results to the ABSO.
  1. POLICY: 

Biological safety cabinets (BSCs) shall be certified:

  1. After initial installation;
  2. After being moved; and
  3. At least annually. 

BSCs that do not meet these certification requirements shall be labeled as inactive and shall not be used for any purpose.

BSCs, unless exempted (see IV. Responsibilities, EHS, 4th bullet, above), shall be decontaminated before:

  1. Relocation;
  2. Repair (when maintenance work, filter changes, and performance tests require access to any potentially contaminated portion of the cabinet); or 
  3. Being taken out of service.

Decontamination is recommended as a prudent practice (1) after a gross spill of infectious material or (2) if the BSC is going to be put on inactive status.