Ask one hundred people on the street to name the five most dangerous jobs, and “pharmacist” probably won’t be on anyone’s list.
But ask any pharmacist and they’ll tell you a pharmacy can be a very dangerous place to work, with injury risks running the gamut from biohazards to back strains. Effectively managing these risks is the key to protecting your staff and your bottom line.
Here are the 10 biggest injury risks most pharmacists face and how to avoid them.
One of your biggest risks is being in contact with sick patients who come into your pharmacy while sick with infectious diseases.
Clean and disinfect work areas regularly.
Wear protective gear such as masks and rubber gloves.
2. Slips, trips, and falls
These are some of the leading causes of injury in almost every workplace, and pharmacies are no exception.
Keep work areas free of clutter, install and maintain non-slip flooring, ensure you have adequate lighting, and educate your staff on good housekeeping procedures.
3. Cuts and burns
Cuts can happen all too easily from sharp instruments, equipment, or broken glassware.
Burns can happen when working with heat sealers and other equipment, as well as around electrical cords and appliances.
Train your staff in safe work practices, require proper storage of tools, use protective clothing, and have a complete and easily accessible First Aid kit.
4. Repetitive motion
Typing and clicking a computer mouse all day can cause shoulder, elbow, and wrist injuries. Reading and writing at a workstation for long periods can cause neck pain.
Awkward sitting or standing postures can lead to fatigue, tissue damage, and irritation of tendons and muscles.
Poor workstation design can cause overextension injuries.
Help fend off these repetitive motion injuries with ergonomically designed workstations, tools that automate tasks, and adequate safety training.
Pharmacists do a lot of standing and walking.
Prolonged standing can cause fatigue, back pain, varicose veins, and other issues. Install anti-fatigue mats at fixed workstations, encourage the use of comfortable, closed-toed shoes with good support, and consider using stools to alternate between sitting and standing.
6. Strains and sprains
Slipped discs, muscle aches, backaches, and even hemorrhoids can result from lifting heavy objects.
Practice safe lifting techniques including getting assistance from a coworker, using assistive equipment such as a dolly, or wearing a back brace.
7. Eye strain
Pharmacists stare at a computer screen for many hours on a typical day.
Poor lighting, improper computer screen brightness settings, and poorly designed workstations can lead to eye strain, astigmatism, myopia, and migraine headaches.
8. Chemical hazards
If you’re compounding drugs, you’re exposed to medication powder, liquid spills, and hazardous vapors.
Have safe work procedures in place to handle spills and other mishaps involving harmful substances, and always wear protective gear including eye protection, gowns, and gloves.
9. Biological hazards
Most pharmacies today offer flu shots and testing procedures that require skin piercings such as a glucose or cholesterol tests.
This means exposure to blood and possibly other bodily fluids that can carry deadly bacteria and viruses.
Be safe – always wear protective gear.
10. Psychological hazards
Pharmacists often work long hours and deal with a heavy workload, and they’re also subject to abuse by customers or fellow employees.
To help alleviate these stresses, review your management and scheduling policies, consider changes to your work environment, and educate your staff about violence awareness, avoidance, and de-escalation.
Managing these risks can keep your pharmacy safe, while protecting your bottom line from unnecessary medical and legal costs, workers’ compensation claims, and higher workers’ comp premiums.