Biological Safety Cabinets (BSC)

A Biological Safety Cabinet is a piece of equipment that is designed to provide the worker and product protection. The BSC is designed to protect you from infectious material and protect the material you work on inside the cabinet from outside contamination.

You should use your biological safety cabinet any time you work with infectious material. Note the importance of airflow in the proper function of a BSC, as a major safety element is the "air curtain" established at the front grille.

Safe work practices when using a biological safety cabinet include:

  • Use appropriate personal protective equipment, including, at a minimum, a laboratory coat and gloves.
  • Interior-surface BSCs should be surface decontaminated with disinfectant at the beginning and end of your work, between users, and even between cell types to reduce cross-contamination.
  • Do not block the front grille, which includes leaving notebooks or resting your arms in this area.
  • Ensure that the front sash is lowered at an appropriate height for you to provide full-face protection while still allowing enough freedom of movement to perform your tasks.
  • Locate your work material as far back in your biological safety cabinet as possible. Operations should be performed at least 4 inches from the front grille.
  • Move your arms in and out only as necessary and use slow movements to reduce airflow disruption.
  • Plastic-backed absorbent toweling can be placed on the work surface (but not on the front grille) to aid in clean-up and spill containment.
  • Your work should flow from a clean area to a contaminated area to reduce cross-contamination.
  • Open flames create turbulence that can disrupt the airflow in your biological safety cabinet and should not be used. If necessary, touch-plate micro burners or electrical furnaces should be used 

Common findings relevant to biological safety cabinets:

Biological safety cabinet is inaccessible: 

Material that impedes access to the biosafety cabinet must be removed. 

Biological safety cabinet is used for storage: 

Too much clutter will disrupt airflow in the cabinet. BSCs must remain clear of all excess chemicals and equipment. The BSC sash should be lowered to approximately 4 inches when not in use and must be capable of closing fully in an emergency. Ample space must be kept clear to allow the technician a safe working area. All chemicals and equipment not actively being used must be stored appropriately.

Biological safety cabinet exhaust filter is obstructed: 

Obstructed exhaust filters decrease the amount of air flowing through the cabinet. The air curtain protects the user from the material within and the material within from the user and the environment. Blocking airflow will reduce the protection of people and material. Remove obstructions to maintain proper airflow.

Biological safety cabinet certification past due: 

BSCs must be certified by a vendor annually, after repairs, and after relocation to ensure proper function and worker protection. If the BSC has failed inspection, all biological and material hazards must be removed and stored appropriately. Work may not be resumed until the unit is fully operational and recertified.


Please contact EHS at (410) 706-7055 if you would like to request additional one-on-one training or advice regarding working in a BSC. 

Additional information may also be found at the Biosafety BSC resource page.