The Differences Between Laboratory Containment Levels 1, 2 and 3

Laboratories are classified by their containment levels to ensure that both environment and personnel are protected from the agents being worked with. Here, we look at the differences between Laboratory Containment Levels and why they are so important.

What are Laboratory Containment Levels?

Laboratory Containment Levels help to classify laboratories in order to best protect those working in them and keep the environment as safe and risk-free as possible. The safety level of a laboratory is based on what is being researched or worked on within the lab and how dangerous it could be to both personnel and their surroundings. For example, whether the material being worked with could be lethal if not contained effectively.

The safety level of a particular laboratory is decided based on a number of different factors. These include, but are not exclusive to, the risks related to containment, the possible severity of infection, the transmissibility of what is being worked with, the type of work being carried out, and the origin of the product being researched or worked on.

Classifying laboratories into these different safety levels is important as this highlights areas that need looking at, including the design of the lab, the equipment required, and the type of work and research that can safely take place.

Containment Level 1 (CL1)

Containment Level 1 laboratories (CL1) are those that don’t require any special equipment as the materials being worked with are very low risk and pose little or no threat to those working with them. Work in CL1 laboratories typically takes place on workbenches and won’t involve anything other than what you’d expect from a professional lab. Containment is achieved through standard procedures, such as wearing appropriate protective equipment, regular handwashing, clearing up spills quickly and efficiently, and fully decontaminating all areas once work has been completed for the day.

Containment Level 2 (CL2)

The next containment level is CL2 in which people are working with slightly more hazardous agents than those in CL1 facilities. In CL2 laboratories, the materials being worked with are unlikely to be transmissible through the air but could cause a risk to personnel and their environment if splashed or spilled. Those working in CL2 labs should wear PPE and biological safety cabinets should be used to contain aerosols and splashes. Containment Level 2 laboratories should also be designed to prevent leakages through having self-closing, lockable doors, and must have autoclaves for proper decontamination.

Containment Level 3 (CL3)

Containment Level 3 (CL3) laboratories require the same as CL2 labs, plus extra features, as they are used to research and work with agents that can be transmitted via the air and can infect personnel and result in life threatening diseases very easily through inhalation. Additional primary and secondary barriers are needed to keep the environment and those working in it protected, and the work carried out is strictly controlled through applicable regulations. Both PPE and respiratory protection should be used where appropriate, exhausted laboratory air should be filtered out and clean air drawn in, and strict fumigation procedures should be carried out on the completion of work.

The importance of integrity testing

No matter which containment level a laboratory has, it’s important that all necessary rules are followed to ensure the safety of those working there. Part of this is having integrity testing carried out in line with safety guidelines to check that all labs and the equipment in them are set up and functioning correctly. Depending on the laboratory’s containment level, some testing will be needed every 6 months (CL3) whereas other testing can be carried out annually (CL1 and CL2).

At Crowthorne Group, we have years of experience in working with laboratories to ensure that they’re running safely. We can carry out tests on various types of equipment depending on what is required. These include:

If replacements are needed or further servicing is required, we can arrange this for you so you can be confident that your lab is in safe hands.

Now that you know the differences between Laboratory Containment Levels 1, 2, and 3, contact us for further information about when you should have integrity testing carried out in your lab.

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