Biosafety Cabinet Field Certifier Accreditation

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.
Shot of a young man putting on googles wearing protective gear

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.

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.