Unleashing the power of BSL-3 autoclaves: what to know about biosafety levels


Ensuring the proper biosafety levels in the healthcare industry is of paramount importance. With the risk posed by infectious diseases and the need for advanced research, laboratories, and healthcare facilities are investing in state-of-the-art equipment to protect both their personnel and the general public.

One such essential equipment is the BSL-3 autoclave, a powerful tool that plays a vital role in biosafety. In this comprehensive guide by Celitron, we will dive into the world of autoclaves that can meet these requirements, exploring their significance, functions, and best practices to ensure biosafety levels are maintained at their highest standards.

What is a BSL-3 autoclave?

A BSL-3 autoclave - which is short for biosafety level 3 - is a highly specialized and advanced sterilization device used in research laboratories, pharmaceutical companies, and healthcare facilities such as hospitals and clinics. It is designed to handle biohazardous materials, including infectious agents and potentially lethal pathogens, with a focus on preventing their release into the environment.

BSL-3 autoclaves operate under strict biosafety protocols, offering a robust solution for decontaminating laboratory waste, glassware, and other materials that may come into contact with hazardous substances. We’ve written an article about autoclave-compatible materials before, but as always, make sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions about what you can and cannot sterilize with the model you chose.

How many biosafety levels are there and what kind of autoclaves meet these requirements?

All labs that work with microorganisms are given certain biosafety level designations that (among other things) show what autoclaves they can use. These levels are defined based on the type of hazardous materials being handled, the associated risks, and the necessary precautions to minimize exposure.

There are 4 main biosafety levels established by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):

  • BSL-1 (least dangerous)
  • BSL-2
  • BSL-3
  • BSL-4 (most dangerous)

Most standard autoclave models can be used in BSL-1 and BSL-2 facilities. On the other hand, BSL-3 autoclaves and beyond will need additional features to be suitable.

BSL-4 facilities have the strictest set of rules and work with extremely dangerous viruses such as Ebola. These labs are rare and isolated and require a completely different set of rules from the average healthcare facility. As such, our article will focus on biosafety level 3 autoclaves, as BSL-4 is a much more complex and specialized subject.

How are BSL-3 autoclaves different?

BSL-3 autoclaves are designed with several key features to meet the specific requirements of biosafety levels. Understanding these features is essential for utilizing these autoclaves effectively and ensuring optimal safety.

Here are some notable examples of features to look out for:

1) Vacuum-based cycles

All autoclaves operate based on steam sterilization cycles. Each cycle represents the process of the materials inside coming into contact with high-pressure and high-temperature steam ranging between 121 and 134 degrees Celsius, which enables even heat-resistant bacteria to be killed. Compared to gravity cycle-based steam sterilizers, vacuum autoclaves (also known as class B autoclaves) make the work of BSL-3 facilities much easier by being faster and more versatile (one cycle can be completed in about 20 minutes).

At Celitron, all of our autoclaves operate with vacuum-based cycles, regardless of their size.

2) Clean steam generator

Clean steam is a sterile form of steam that can safely be used to sterilize items in a cleanroom or other medical settings that have strict criteria. The healthcare industry uses clean steam—rather than standard steam—for higher levels of steam sterilization and humidification.

Celitron’s autoclaves can be equipped with an internal steam generator to generate clean steam. This not only enables faster sterilization cycles with efficient energy consumption but also eliminates the dependence on an external steam source of lesser quality.

3) BSL-3 autoclaves with a double-door system

One of the distinctive features of BSL-3 autoclaves is the double-door system. This system consists of an outer door and an inner door, with interlocking mechanisms that prevent both doors from being open simultaneously. The double-door system acts as a physical barrier, minimizing the risk of pathogens escaping the autoclave and entering the laboratory environment.

This is one of the most important characteristics of any BSL-3 laboratory: all bacteria and pathogens must be contained within the lab, and cannot escape the room.

Celitron’s autoclaves are also equipped with self-closing doors, which cannot be opened until pressure and temperature levels are still too high within the chamber of the sterilizer.

4) Robust construction and materials

BSL-3 autoclaves are constructed with durable and non-corrosive materials, such as stainless steel, to withstand high-pressure steam and harsh chemical disinfectants. The autoclave chambers are designed to be leak-proof and resistant to damage, ensuring proper containment during the sterilization process.

The vessel of Celitron’s BSL-3 autoclaves is a double full jacketed square chamber, made of corrosion-resistant stainless steel 316L, which conforms to the Pressure Equipment Directive (PED).

5) Biosafety level 3 autoclaves with advanced control systems

Modern biosafety level 3 autoclaves feature advanced control systems that allow precise regulation of temperature, pressure, and sterilization cycles. These control systems ensure consistent and effective sterilization, while also providing user-friendly interfaces for easy operation and monitoring.

With Celitron’s autoclaves up to a total of 20 cycles can be custom designed according to the users’ needs.

Best practices for operating BSL-3 autoclaves

Operating BSL-3 autoclaves requires adherence to specific protocols and best practices to maintain a high level of biosafety. Here are some essential guidelines to follow when using these autoclaves:

1) Proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

When operating a BSL-3 autoclave, wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is crucial. This includes gloves, lab coats, safety goggles, and respiratory protection, if necessary. PPE helps minimize the risk of exposure to hazardous materials and provides an additional layer of protection for personnel.

Not to mention you can also sterilize certain PPE elements with Celitron’s autoclaves.

2) Segregation of biohazardous materials

It is essential to segregate biohazardous materials based on their risk levels and sterilization requirements. This prevents cross-contamination and ensures that each material is treated according to the appropriate sterilization protocol. Proper segregation also facilitates easy identification and handling of different waste categories.

3) Thorough decontamination

Before placing items into the BSL-3 autoclave, they should undergo thorough decontamination to be prepped for sterilization. This involves cleaning surfaces with appropriate disinfectants and removing any visible contaminants. Ensuring proper decontamination helps maintain the autoclave's effectiveness and prevents cross-contamination between different loads.

4) Loading and unloading procedures for BSL-3 autoclaves

Loading and unloading the BSL-3 autoclave should be done with care to minimize the risk of spills or accidents. Items should be arranged in a way that allows proper steam circulation and ensures uniform sterilization. It is important to follow the manufacturer's guidelines regarding load capacity and loading configurations.

5) Monitoring and maintenance of biosafety level 3 autoclaves

Regular monitoring and maintenance of the BSL-3 autoclave are essential to ensure its proper functioning and reliability. This includes routine inspections, calibration of sensors and control systems, and periodic servicing. Any malfunction or deviation from the expected performance should be promptly addressed to maintain optimal sterilization efficacy.

Celitron’s autoclaves include a digital color touch-screen LCD display, self, and remote diagnosis for easier maintenance, as well as a PC connection for external documentation and printing, ensuring a reliable, safe, and user-friendly operation. The displayed information is available for users in a variety of languages.

Should you have any other questions about Celitron’s autoclaves, sizes, or prices, do not hesitate to CONTACT OUR TEAM OF EXPERTS! They will get back to you with a free quote as soon as possible!

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