2011 Biological Safety Cabinet Survey Results

A very specialized research laboratory that deals with infectious agents, organisms or perhaps even laboratory animals, requires the proper degree of protection. Read the results of our biological safety cabinets survey.

By Lab Manager

A very specialized research laboratory that deals with infectious agents, organisms or perhaps even laboratory animals, requires the proper degree of protection. Protection for laboratory personnel, the environment and the local community are of the utmost importance and must be considered and ensured.

Biological safety cabinets (BSCs) are enclosures that protect users and the environment from biohazards by removing particulates and aerosolized pathogens from the work area through HEPA filtration, then recirculate or exhaust the purified air, hence, cleansing the workspace air.

BSCs provide protection to users/operators and/or samples. Whether performing research or production activities, the proper degree of protection should be maintained. The protection required by these types of activities is defined as biosafety levels.

The levels of containment within respondents’ labs.


Containment level 1


Containment level 2


Containment level 3


Containment level 4


BSCs are categorized as Class I, Class II or Class III, depending on their construction, airflow characteristics and exhaust systems. Each of the levels is selected based on the agents or organisms upon which the research or work is being conducted. Each level builds on the previous level, adding constraints and barriers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are the main sources for biological safety information for infectious agents. These classifications are based on each BSC’s suitability for samples at various biosafety levels. Class I and Class II cabinets handle Biosafety Levels 1, 2 and 3 (low to moderate risk), while Class III BSCs are intended for use with Biosafety Level 4 agents (high risk).

Types of Biological Safety Cabinet respondents are using.


Class I


Class II


Class III



Respondents’ fields of research.


Biochemistry and biology


Hospital/medical center


Pharmaceutical industry


Quality control






Food and beverages




Within Class 2, there are four major categories, A1, A2, B1, and B2, which differ in terms of air flow but not degree of protection. A2-type biological safety cabinets comprise about 90 percent of all units sold in the United States. Users are not likely to keep track of the sometimes fine distinctions between models, but vendors are more than happy to help match workflows with cabinets.

Class II Biological Safety Cabinet Sub-types.


Type A Class II


Type B Class II


Don’t know


A biological safety cabinet’s primary mission cannot be compromised—users count on these cabinets to shield them from the dangerous biohazards they work with and to protect their experiments from contamination.

Respondents’ thoughts on the following safety statements regarding BSCs.


Agree & Strongly Agree Disagree & Strongly Disagree

All biological safety cabinets have been tested within the past year

79% 21%

Test labels are properly affixed to the biological safety cabinets tested

79% 21%

Storage in biological safety cabinets is kept to a minimum and is placed so as not to impede proper airflow

85% 15%

Workers using biohazards, toxins and regulated carcinogens have received special training

74% 26%

Rooms and cabinets containing regulated carcinogens, biohazards and radioactive materials are properly labeled

87% 13%

Ongoing trends in BSCs include improvements in the user interface, cabinet usability, ergonomics, and lower operating cost. Today, most labs select either an electronically commutated motor running on direct current or a three-phase AC motor. Both designs cost more than a PSC (permanently split capacitor) motor but run more efficiently and have an operating life of about 50,000 hours, compared with anywhere from 10,000 to15,000 hours for a PSC. HEPA filtration affects operating costs directly. The more life you can get out of the filters, the lower your operating costs. Safety-conscious purchasers tend to go with powerful blowers, but some vendors urge users to consider energy efficiency as well and balance the two needs, otherwise you’re compromising one in favor of the other. Ergonomics play into purchase decisions for BSCs: due to the nature of their work, chemists often set up experiments, close the hood sash and walk away for hours, while biologists spend many hours glued to the BSC. The cabinet should be large enough to accommodate all anticipated reagents and equipment, which users should be able to reach comfortably. A lot of customization goes into cabinets from features and functions to materials of construction that are tailored to specific applications and workflows.

Top ten factors/features that influence the decision-making process when buying a Biological Safety Cabinet.


Ease of use




Low maintenance/operating costs


Controlled airflow




Service and support




Ergonomic design


Energy efficiency


Ease of installation


Completed Surveys: 524

See the most recent survey results

Categories: Surveys

Published In

Workplace Safety Magazine Issue Cover
Workplace Safety

Published: June 1, 2011

Cover Story

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