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Key Features of Safety Cabinet Commissioning

Safety cabinets are one of the key features of any containment laboratory and the higher the level of bio security, the more important their role as the material they deal with is increasingly hazardous.

The commissioning process is the key method of ensuring that the cabinets (which are also known as biological safety cabinets or BSCs) are operating as they should and are keeping everyone involved – staff and potentially the general public – as safe as possible.

Here Arena Instrumentation, who provide safety cabinet commissioning across the UK, examine the key elements of the process.

Checking the Air Supply

The supply of air to and extract air from the cabinet needs to be monitored during the commissioning process (ideally, the laboratory should have been designed with this process in mind).

Whatever air is exhausted from the biosafety cabinet must also be supplied to the room to avoid starving the cabinet of air. The supply air available to the BSC should be verified as well as the supply air to the room, helping reach the desired air pressure and exchange rates. A cabinet cannot be certified if a lack of supply air causes a low or inconsistent inflow or downflow velocity.

Consideration of the exhaust airflow needs to take account any resistance which the cabinet’s HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters will provide when removing any potentially harmful microbes. Again, the cabinet cannot be certified if the exhaust flow or static air pressure is not sufficient (or potentially if either is too high).


Checking the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Systems

While some cabinets return air into the room, recirculating cabinets are vented to the outside world via the extract ventilation or HVAC systems. This means all the HVAC systems should be tested to make sure they are dovetailing properly with the cabinet controls.

Another key component which should be checked is the face velocity – the measured air speed at any inlet or outlet of the HVAC system which ‘pulls’ or ‘pushes’ air to or from the cabinet.


Checking the Cabinet Controls/Building Management System

In the commissioning process, all the functions on the cabinet control panel need to be checked to ensure it is working properly. This particularly applies to any built-in alarms and monitors which tell the operator if anything is wrong, or those converted via a BMS.


Checking the HEPA Filters

The filters themselves need to be checked because they are a key safety component of any BSC. They may have reached the end of their lifespan and need replacing or they may have been damaged during handling or when the cabinet has been relocated.

This is usually done via DOP testing. Here an oil-based particulate (usually in the form of a harmless aerosol) is released into the test area upstream of the filter. Measurements are then taken to establish whether any of the particulate has made its way through the filter or its casing.


Carrying out The KI Test

KI testing of safety cabinets (KI is the chemical formula for potassium iodide) check their performance and that they’re working safely and efficiently. A spinning disc produces a fine mist of potassium iodide droplets within the cabinet and centripetal collectors outside of the cabinet sample the air as the droplets are dispersed.

The potassium iodide droplets that are collected are deposited onto filter membranes which are placed into a solution of palladium chloride at the end of the test. Any remaining KI will then be identified by brown dots and the safety of the cabinet is determined by how many dots appear.


How Often Should BSCs be Commissioned?

The commissioning process shouldn’t just take place when the cabinet is installed or when new lab premises are built. It should be a regular occurrence, either in line with the manufacturers’ recommended service intervals or dependent on the environment in which it is being used. This ‘recommissioning’ will ensure that all the building systems, and the safety cabinets, continue to function as required.

Cabinets which are used in a Containment Lab at Levels 3 or 4 should be commissioned more frequently than those being used at a lower CL level as they will be handling more harmful pathogens on a regular basis and the consequences of any exposure caused by a malfunction are far greater. BSCs which are used in CL1 and CL2 environments can usually be inspected annually, whereas cabinets in CL3 and CL4 environments may need to be checked every six months.

Commissioning may also be advisable whenever the cabinet is moved within the laboratory or clean room.


Safety Cabinet Commissioning from Arena Instrumentation

As a leading calibration company, we can commission all types and makes of safety cabinet. We can also service a range of other scientific equipment, including centrifuges, pipettes, incubators and fridges and freezers.

If you would like to learn more, follow this link and fill in the online form or call us on 0151 355 1314.