Containment levels are one of the principal biosecurity yardsticks in not just the UK but across the world. The recent national and international outbreaks of infectious diseases – including SARS, so-called ‘superbugs’ such as MRSA and C-Diff, as well as COVID-19 – have put the whole area firmly in the spotlight.

Tecomak Environmental Services offer high-quality containment laboratory services across the UK. Here we explain the key differences between four categories, and how we provide a complete biosecurity service for the healthcare sector.

Containment Level 1

These laboratories typically handle low-risk pathogens, such as genetically modified organisms, animals and plants, and so don’t need as many special biosecurity measures in place as the higher CL categories.

However, there should be a risk assessment protocol in place, access needs to be strictly controlled (particularly for guests and visitors, who should be supervised at all times) and the lab should be locked if it isn’t being used. All the laboratory surfaces should be impervious to water, acid and solvent-resistant and easy to clean. All the ventilation systems and safety cabinets should be inspected and tested at least once a year.

Containment Level 2

CL2 rooms and labs represent a step up in protection levels because they handle what are classified as ‘medium-risk’ biological agents. These can include pathogens which are linked to human disease, such as staphylococcus aureas (also known as staph infections) and the HIV virus.

All the protections in place for CL1 rooms and labs also apply here, along with some additional safety measures. More emphasis is placed on user cleanliness with hand sanitisers and eyewash stations provided, as well as the use of personal protective equipment. Risk assessments should also be carried out, with reference to the COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) regulations of 2002.

In a CL2 lab, care should be taken to avoid any splashes as these can settle on surfaces and be transferred through the hands. Any procedures which could cause infection via an airborne route should be carried out in a biological safety cabinet. The use of sharps – any instruments which could puncture the skin – should be avoided where possible.

Containment Level 3

These types of laboratories handle comparatively high-risk pathogens, such as the those which cause yellow fever, West Nile virus and the bacteria that causes tuberculosis. This means there is a much higher risk of passing on an infectious disease if the appropriate measures are not in place.

Safety protocols in a CL3 room or lab include decontamination of waste and clothing, a separate regular fumigation, and (sometimes) a separate lobby area to minimise the risk to staff and patients. The PPE and personal hygiene requirements which are found in CL2 rooms are also applicable here.

There are also stricter rules around air circulation – any fresh air should be drawn into the lab from ‘clean’ areas and with no recirculation. This is partly down to the presence of pathogens which could transmit infection via an airborne route. It also places great importance on the room’s critical ventilation systems.

Most CL rooms in hospitals are classified as level 3. This is because they are dealing with samples taken from infected patients and need annual htm 03-01 verification – another service which Tecomak can provide.

Containment Level Four

This is the highest biosecurity level in operation in the UK. It isn’t very common because they deal with highly hazardous – but also extremely rare – pathogens, such as those which are associated with Lassa Fever and the Ebola virus. Anything brought back from a space exploration programme would also have to be examined in a CL4 lab.

Users are all required to change clothing before they enter and shower after they leave. PPE includes full-body suits and Class III safety cabinets (the highest level available) are used.

Containment Laboratory Services from Tecomak Environmental Services

At Tecomak, we offer a range of services, starting with the design and commissioning of any new facilities and ongoing inspections to ensure that the containment lab isn’t posing a risk to operators or the outside world.

These include HEPA filter testing and replacement (relating to the room’s critical ventilation system), checking that the room is properly sealable, testing the alarm and pressure monitoring systems and carrying out any mechanical or electrical repairs. Our engineers are fully aware of all the latest legislation and can ensure the regulatory compliance of your CL lab or room.

If you would like to know more about our containment laboratory services, call us on 01732 852250 or follow this link and fill in the online form.