Biosafety Cabinet Field Certifier Accreditation

  • Overview
  • Benefits of Accreditation
  • Why Work With NSF?
  • Accreditation Process
  • About the Programs

NSF operates two accreditation programs that evaluate the proficiency of individuals who perform field certification of biosafety cabinets: an enhanced accreditation program for field certifiers in North America and a basic accreditation program for field certifiers outside of North America. These programs include written and practical (hands-on) examinations, along with continuing education and ethics requirements.

NSF's enhanced biosafety cabinet field certifier accreditation is recognized as the premier credential for individuals who certify Class II biosafety cabinets in hospitals, laboratories and research facilities in North America. Until 2017, this program was known as NSF's biosafety cabinet field certifier accreditation program and was NSF's only accreditation option for biosafety cabinet field certifiers.

In response to a demonstrated need for improved field certification infrastructure worldwide and at the request of various stakeholder groups, NSF initiated the basic biosafety cabinet field certifier accreditation program in 2017 for field certifiers who live and work outside of North America. It includes many of the same components as the enhanced program, but is tailored to the international marketplace and is intended not only to provide trained field certifiers with credentials to show prospective clients, but to promote overall awareness of the need for routine biosafety cabinet maintenance.

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Benefits of Accreditation

NSF is the only third-party certification organization with more than 40 years of commitment and service to the biosafety cabinet community.

In North America, the majority of laboratories demand that their biosafety cabinet service providers are NSF accredited. The industry, recognizing the need for demonstrated training, knowledge, experience and skills to ensure protection of public health, safety and the environment, views NSF accredited field certifiers as providing quality, reliable field certification services.

Outside of North America, the scope of public health and safety regulations and the availability of trained professionals varies by country. NSF's mission is to promote the proper maintenance of biosafety cabinets through outreach and accreditation of trained individuals.

NSF accredited field certifiers are authorized to use the NSF mark on their test reports and marketing materials, and have 24/7 access to the most current version of NSF/ANSI 49, the biosafety cabinetry standard.

Why Work With NSF?

NSF's services offer global recognition and exposure, covering over 170 countries. NSF operates more than 305,000 square feet of ISO/IEC 17025 accredited, state-of-the-art labs in North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia. NSF also has partnerships with peer organizations in Canada, Mexico and Europe. Thousands of companies have come to depend on NSF for demonstrated compliance to recognized standards and to provide the uncompromised integrity of global recognition and acceptance.

Accreditation Process

Upon request, NSF provides candidates an application form, summary of the accreditation requirements, written and practical examination outlines, reference material lists, and timing and costs associated with accreditation. Candidates’ completed applications initiate the formal accreditation process.

Candidates must successfully complete both written and practical examinations. The written exam for the enhanced accreditation program is provided in English, although translation services may be procured by the candidate. For the basic accreditation program, the written exam is provided in the primary language of the region in which the test is offered.

The practical exam evaluates a candidate's ability to perform tests detailed in Annex F of NSF/ANSI 49. Test equipment will be checked during the practical examination to ensure it has been properly calibrated.

Following initial accreditation, field certifiers must supply equipment calibration documentation at the start of each calendar year. Reaccreditation is required every five years, either through accumulation of sufficient requalification units (continuing education) or through re-examination.

About the Programs

The enhanced accreditation program is the same as NSF's original accreditation program, which was initiated in the 1990s. NSF's original program was rebranded in early 2017 as "enhanced" to differentiate it from the newly introduced basic accreditation program, which is geared toward field certifiers who live and work outside of North America, particularly those in under-resourced countries.

North American field certifiers may only apply for accreditation through the enhanced program because it is the established norm for that region. Candidates living and working outside North America may apply either to the enhanced accreditation program or to the basic accreditation program.

Both accreditation programs require training and objective evaluation of a candidate's proficiency.

Because costs associated with travelling to the United States for multiple training and testing sessions can be prohibitive, testing under the basic accreditation program takes place in-country and is paired with low-cost training courses. NSF will partner with outside training organizations for this effort. NSF’s partners offer training and education, while NSF provides third-party testing services. By using loaned or donated test equipment and maximizing the use of in-country resources, the costs associated with the basic accreditation program are kept to a minimum.

Written Examination

The written examination for the enhanced accreditation program is provided in English. On request, it may be taken with the assistance of a translator (translator fees to be paid by the accreditation candidate). The examination consists of 120 multiple choice questions covering topics ranging from cabinet design to air velocity measurements to decontamination. The written examination is open-book. Candidates may reference NSF/ANSI 49 and the NSF policies during the exam, along with any handwritten notes in the margins of the documents.

Under the enhanced accreditation program, NSF may mail examination packets to independent proctors, such as librarians, test centers, university professors, etc., at the request of the accreditation candidates. This requires providing NSF with the name, title, phone number and address (no P.O. boxes) of the individual who has agreed to be the proctor, along with the scheduled date/time for the test. NSF will provide the examination materials directly to the approved proctor who then returns the completed forms to NSF for scoring.

The written examination for the basic accreditation program is shorter and written in the language of the host country. The basic accreditation program written examination addresses not only NSF/ANSI 49, but other biosafety cabinet standards such as EN 12469 and the Chinese YY-0569 standard. There are fewer questions related to type B biosafety cabinets. Design elements such as dampers are not assumed.

A minimum score of 80 percent is required to pass the written examinations.

Practical Examination

Both accreditation programs include the following practical examination tests:

Enhanced Accreditation Program

  • Downflow velocity
  • Inflow velocity (primary, direct inflow measurement)
  • Inflow velocity (secondary, constricted access)
  • Calculating inflow/downflow velocity from volume (Type B2 cabinets)
  • Smoke patterns
  • HEPA leak – scan
  • HEPA leak – gross probe
  • Lighting intensity
  • Vibration test
  • Noise level test
  • Site installation assessment
  • Decontamination – paraformaldehyde method

Basic Accreditation Program

  • Downflow velocity (both NSF/ANSI 49 and EN 12469 methods)
  • Inflow velocity (secondary, constricted access)
  • Inflow velocity (secondary, exhaust velocity)
  • HEPA leak – scan
  • Site installation assessment
  • Smoke patterns

A minimum score of 90 percent is required to pass primary tests. User comfort tests require a score of 70 percent or more to pass.

Note that by removing tests related to type B biosafety cabinets and user comfort and by allowing substitution of secondary methods for inflow velocity measurement (in lieu of the DIM method), the total number of pieces and cost of test equipment required for the basic accreditation program are less than those for the enhanced accreditation program.

Only approved NSF representatives are qualified to proctor practical examinations.

The following locations are pre-approved test sites for the enhanced accreditation program practical examinations:

  • CEPA Company, Ontario, CA, USA
  • Con-Test, Ajax, Ontario, Canada
  • Eagleson Institute, Sanford, ME, USA
  • ENV Services, Hatfield, PA, USA
  • Micro-Clean, Inc., Bethlehem, PA, USA
  • Other test sites outside of North America may be requested

Public Health England (PHE)’s Novel and Dangerous Pathogens Training Laboratory in Salisbury, UK is an NSF International pre-approved test site for the basic accreditation program practical and theoretical examinations. PHE is the only approved test site in Europe with biosafety cabinet field certifier accreditation training available for candidates from countries outside North America.

Calibration records for test equipment used by candidates during practical examinations are reviewed by the proctors to ensure that only properly calibrated equipment is used.

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  • Open How do I get started?

    Contact and request an application packet for detailed information about the accreditation programs. If you are new to the field of biosafety cabinet certification, you will need training and experience before you can become accredited. A minimum of one year of experience and completion of a training course on biosafety cabinet certification is required prior to applying for enhanced accreditation. Enrollment in a rigorous training course that includes both classroom instruction and hands-on practice is also required to apply under the basic accreditation program.

  • Open How can I get experience testing biosafety cabinets in order to qualify for the enhanced accreditation program?

    NSF understands that the minimum one year of experience is sometimes the most difficult part of fulfilling the application requirements for the enhanced accreditation program, especially with more facilities requiring NSF accreditation for their service providers. While larger companies can pair non-accredited and accredited field certifiers, having both technicians sign off on test reports for cabinets they’ve tested together, this approach does not work for independent contractors and smaller businesses. NSF recommends generating test reports during the training process (using the data from class to prepare a test report), and performing non-certification, “informational” tests wherever possible (i.e. test a certified biosafety cabinet without making any adjustments – it’s good practice for the technician and supports the current certification or helps to proactively identify issues). Mock test reports must include all of the data specified by NSF/ANSI 49. The same biosafety cabinet may be tested multiple times, for example once a week for several months.

  • Open Does NSF offer training courses for biosafety cabinet field certifiers?

    NSF offers training and education courses in several public health-related areas. However, NSF does not offer courses related to biosafety cabinet field certification, but focuses on accreditation of individuals after they receive training. Several well-respected companies offer this training, such as The Eagleson Institute, CEPA Operations and major biosafety cabinet manufacturers. NSF’s applicant guide provides a list of training facilities, along with contact information.

  • Open Why did NSF initiate the new basic accreditation program?

    The steering committee for NSF’s biosafety cabinet field certifier accreditation program recommended the formation of a new accreditation program for certifiers outside North America to better serve the global community and eliminate the negative bias that non-native English speakers faced when taking a three-and-a-half hour written exam in English.

    Current global biosafety cabinet issues, especially in under-resourced countries, include:

    • More than 40 percent of biosafety cabinets are sold into countries that have no certification infrastructure. There is limited access, if any, to trained, experienced personnel to maintain cabinets after they are initially installed.
    • Laboratory personnel may be unaware of industry recommendations regarding proper use and maintenance of biosafety cabinets.
    • Current country frameworks may consider maintenance cost prohibitive.
    • Test equipment for the enhanced accreditation program is costly – it can total more than $20,000 USD for a complete kit.
    • It is difficult to find local companies that calibrate test equipment, and shipping instrumentation overseas costs time and money.
    • Field certifiers outside of North America need to understand multiple international standards for biosafety cabinets, not just NSF/ANSI 49. They may also be asked to certify biosafety cabinets that have not been through third-party “type testing” to a standard for design, construction and performance.
    • There are design differences between biosafety cabinets manufactured in different regions of the world.
    • Type B biosafety cabinets (which rely on building exhaust) are not as common outside of North America.

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