Peak Long-Term BSC Performance in Your Lab

A biological safety cabinet (BSC) is a major investment that must operate at peak efficiency—something that becomes more challenging as the unit ages. However, there are steps a lab manager can take to minimize performance degradation over the long-term.

BSCs are essential to successful, safe, and reproducible laboratory work. This equipment's reliable operation is essential to maintain the integrity of sensitive research. Studies indicate that the worldwide BSC market hit $207 million in 2021—and this sum will rise to some $320 million by 2027. In the coming years, BSCs will remain key to innovation, with their top performance a source of competitive advantage for research breakthroughs and lab operations.

A well-maintained BSC can last for many years. However, eventually, most cabinets will develop performance-inhibiting issues. Facing these problems quickly and efficiently allows lab managers to prolong a BSC’s peak working life—and get the greatest possible return on investment (ROI).

BSC Long-Term Performance Challenges

With a price tag that usually exceeds $10,000, a BSC is a major investment. However, as with any manufactured product built for hard work, a BSC will wear down from regular usage. An aged BSC cannot operate optimally. In fact, over time, various elements in the cabinet degrade and operability diminishes.

Older units may still be certifiable by the original manufacturers’ specifications—but not provide the  protections and power efficiency of newer cabinets. Also, manufacturers don’t support parts indefinitely. When a BSC becomes a “classic,” like a car, it is ever more costly to maintain. After five years or so, a motor fails, or filters clog and degrade. Replacing these parts in older units typically costs several thousand dollars.

Additionally, manufacturers will often discontinue support for their older units—and spare parts will only be available from aftermarket suppliers. This means yet more challenges for procurement and maintenance.

Best Practices for BSC Performance

Nevertheless, it is crucial for lab management and administration to be diligent, and to maintain the BSC as proactively as possible. This helps to preserve research integrity, as well as the health and safety of investigators and lab staff.

Additionally, preventative maintenance can ensure longer production run times for the gear, as this blog has previously noted. It also can mean smoother operations and improved environmental compliance. Finally, proper care enhances the cabinet’s ROI.

Some best maintenance practices to promote long term peak performance include conducting:

  • BSC certification: As we’ve discussed, regular BSC certification is both a legal requirement and best practice. Managers must certify BSCs when they are installed, and at least once annually after that. During routine operations, the appliance should always meet the operational benchmarks of the BSC manufacturer. Additionally, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) maintains rigid guidelines for BSCs. This bolsters lab safety and prevents potential BSC-related hazardous events—including ones that could take the lab offline. Conducting annual certifications will also mean that technicians have a chance to detect incipient problems. If the work is critical, managers may consider conducting more frequent certifications. The technicians can then address any potential issues with the cabinet before a full-blown catastrophic event occurs.
  • BSC cleaning: Technicians must clean the cabinet before and after every use, or if a spill has occurred in the unit. This is a crucial best practice to prevent any cross-contamination between experiments or processes. On an annual or semi-annual basis, technicians should clean below the work tray and clear the paper catch. Also, they should monitor the debris in the internal parts and high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters. When regular cleaning can’t remove this buildup, a more thorough decontamination is necessary.
  • BSC decontamination: Periodically, even when performing regular routine cleanings, management must arrange for proper full decontamination. Technicians must follow the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF)/American National Standards Institute (ANSI) 49 Standard for Biological Safety Cabinet Decontamination to stay compliant and ensure a complete decontamination.

These are a few basic procedures to maintain a cabinet for its full useful life and enable its most efficient possible operation. Are you looking to reduce the BSC maintenance burden? You can turn to a partner to support your BSC during its lifecycle. Triumvirate Environmental offers a full set of BSC cleaning, decontamination, certification, and repair services. Talk to us today.

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