Pharmaceutical workplaces pose certain hazards to workers’ health and safety. The degrees and types of these safety hazards vary from workplace to workplace. Regardless, pharmaceutical workplaces must work proactively to avoid the common types of safety hazards in pharmaceutical settings, even those that are highly unlikely to occur.
Here are the different kinds of hazards that pharmaceutical workplaces can pose and the best ways to avoid them.
One of the common accidents that occur in workplaces — including pharmaceutical laboratories — includes slips and falls. A slip and fall accident is bound to occur if a pharmaceutical workplace has unsafe flooring and lax maintenance procedures. That said, an effective flooring system for pharmaceutical facilities is a must for all pharmaceutical workplaces since they are safer, anti-microbial, non-slippery, and also easy to clean.
Sharp instruments, heat equipment, and electrical cords also pose health and safety risks to pharmaceutical workers. To avoid any untoward incidents, workplaces must go above and beyond in educating their workers about proper safety work processes, equipment use, and emergency procedures. While education is not always enough to avoid workplace accidents altogether, it can help reduce incidents significantly.
Pharmaceutical laboratories study and manufacture existing and non-existing drugs, and researchers use a variety of industrial chemicals on a regular basis. Exposure to industrial chemicals, such as solvents, alkaloids, and methylating agents, can cause irritation of the skin and eyes, burns, and sometimes even respiratory problems.
Proper training and education are crucial to avoid or at least minimize chemical safety risks. Furthermore, compounding pharmacies and laboratories must have proper disposal procedures for various substances. Pharmacists or researchers who are at risk of chemical exposure should also wear complete PPEs at all times, including face shields, respiratory equipment, gowns, gloves, shoe covers, and goggles — the quality of which should be enough to pass safety standards.
While ergonomic hazards do not pose an immediate danger to pharmaceutical workers, they can manifest through different conditions over time. For instance, since lab researchers and scientists spend most of their time sitting, it is imperative that they have ergonomic office furniture to prevent body pain. Just like in a regular office, their desks, computers, and chairs must be adjusted to the proper height to promote good posture.
Computers must have proper screen brightness as not to hurt user’s eyes. Workstations should also have headsets in case pharmaceutical workers have to engage in long phone calls to prevent them from having to place the receiver between their shoulder and ear while using their hands to type. Furthermore, workplace lighting must be adequate to allow pharmaceutical workers to see everything clearly but not to the point of glaring, which can reduce productivity and increase the risk of developing headaches.
Pharmaceutical workers may also spend a lot of time standing while performing experiments. To prevent the negative effects of long periods of standing (e.g., leg pain, back pain, and fatigue), workplaces must encourage their employees to take their breaks on time, wherein they can stay off their feet for a few minutes.
4. Fire hazards
Aside from industrial chemicals, pharmaceutical workers also use burners and combustible materials regularly. To maximize fire safety, workers must make it a point to avoid burners from coming into contact with flammable materials, especially paper. It is also imperative for laboratory maintenance to inspect gas hoses regularly to find signs of damage that could lead to a higher fire risk. Furthermore, laboratory staff must ensure the proper storage of chemicals to avoid the risk of explosions, fires, and harmful fumes.
5. Carbon monoxide exposure
Carbon monoxide is the byproduct of certain chemical reactions. It is an odorless, colorless gas that is toxic to humans, causing dizziness, weakness, vomiting, and in worst cases, death. To avoid this potentially fatal hazard, all pharmaceutical workplaces must have carbon monoxide detectors that receive proper maintenance regularly.
6. Psychological/mental hazards
Psychological or mental hazards are, unfortunately, often overlooked in most workplaces. Pharmaceutical workplaces must do their part in taking care of their workers’ mental health by modifying management policies and procedures. For one, management should hire enough workers to prevent excessive workload and reduce the need for existing employees to work longer hours. Furthermore, workers should receive proper training on maintaining a positive work-life balance. This way, they are better able to separate work from their personal life for a much more ideal lifestyle.
All workplaces come with occupational hazards. In the case of pharmaceuticals workplaces, these hazards are the most prevalent. Fortunately, most of these hazards are avoidable with proper and adequate training, education, awareness, safety procedures, and management policies.