Safety Tips: Working In Biological Safety Cabinets Amid COVID-19

Because of the pandemic, diagnostic labs are working around the clock to deal with the flood of suspected COVID-19 test samples. Amid this crisis, it is all the more important for lab personnel to take extra steps to protect themselves from the virus and other harmful pathogens during investigations. Apart from wearing gloves, PPE equipment, masks, and having splash shields, this involves taking precautions while working in biological safety cabinets.

The role of NSF-certified biosafety cabinets as a viral specimen containment device is now more important than ever before. As these help lab personnel to test samples safely and swiftly, the CDC recommends their use in the analysis and processing of novel coronavirus clinical samples.

Biosafety cabinets offer 3 layers of protection — it helps to prevent sample contamination, it keeps the lab technician safe, and also ensures that potentially harmful materials don’t get released into the lab environment. Ultimately, it creates a ‘safety bubble’ for the technician and helps to isolate the sample in question.

In this blog, we share some effective tips and best practices that will help technicians to enhance personal protection and protect their experiments:

1. Have a proper understanding of the airflow

Bear in mind that viruses and other harmful pathogens can spread very easily if there is something wrong with the airflow in the biosafety cabinet. To make sure that you do your bit to maintain a safe working environment, understand how contaminated air flows out from your work surface and HEPA filtered air gets in the cabinet.

Don’t rest your elbows on the air grill as it will block airflow and force contaminated air to seep into the workspace. In addition to this, slow down while working in the biological safety cabinet. The rapid movement of hands can lead to disruption of airflow.

2. Work with lab supplies carefully and follow guidelines

Holding open test tubes in a vertical position makes sense for a layperson, not for technicians working in new and used BSCs. These should be tilted slightly and recapped immediately after use. When it comes to working with cultures, obstruct airflow to Petri dishes and plates by holding their lids just above them while performing experiments.

To lower the likelihood of splatters and aerosol generation, be extremely cautious and utilize the best microbiological practices. The CDC recommends using BSL-3 safety measures while isolating novel SARS-CoV-2 cultures. For routine diagnostic testing, working in BSL-2 labs is advised. Class II biological safety cabinets have been constructed especially to prevent nebulized spores from escaping as it absorbs them by manipulating airflow. In addition to this, bear in mind that you keep your clean supplies a minimum of 12 inches away from dirty materials while performing procedures that may generate aerosols.

3. Organize your work area

Ideally, you should be performing all your experiments in the middle of the new or used BSC; 4 inches away from the front air grill. Keep only materials that are extremely necessary for your work area i.e. in the middle.
Heavy items such as medical waste bags should have their place at the cabinet’s interiors. In addition to this, equipment used in aerosol-generating procedures should be at the farther end of the BSC. Keep clean materials that are yet to be used to your left and dirty ones to your right.

Other than this, make sure that you keep your biological safety cabinet clean and well-sanitized. We hope that these tips help to keep you safe amid these challenging times. Looking for high-grade NSF-certified new and used BSCs? Get in touch with us today.