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A pharmacy can be a dangerous work environment. The pharmacist works in a drug store and takes on the risks of a cashier. Some drugs are hazardous, and the mixing process for the drugs introduces additional hazards. The pharmacist also works with tools and machinery, as well as containers that can introduce safety risks.
A pharmacist may work in a retail pharmacy. Pharmacies are targets of robberies since drugs are often expensive, so the cash register may contain large amounts of cash. In addition, robbers know that the pharmacy contains valuable prescription medication which may be stolen and sold to other people. A retail store that contains a pharmacy may also sell other items such as electronics which tempt criminals. A security guard can reduce the risk of a pharmacy robbery.
Pharmacists compound drugs. The process of mixing drugs exposes the pharmacist and technicians to medication powder, liquid spills and hazardous vapors. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the pharmacist may suffer allergic reactions to some drugs, and medications that kill cancer and bacteria may produce toxicity risks. Pharmacists should use protective gear such as gloves and a mask when mixing dangerous compounds.
Radioactive compounds are necessary to treat some diseases. Some medications require compounding radioactive materials. Radioactive medicines also pose risks if the pharmacist stores them improperly. A pharmacist who works in a hospital may be exposed to other radioactive equipment present in the hospital such as X-ray machines. A nuclear pharmacist, who specializes in radioactive treatments, takes on greater risks. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulates radioactive material storage and fines pharmacists who are responsible for safety hazards.
Pharmacists commonly supply medication to sick patients. Many patients visit the pharmacy with contagious diseases. Proper ventilation can reduce the risk of catching an airborne illness, as well as cleaning the work area regularly. The chemicals necessary to destroy biological hazards such as bacteria and viruses that cause disease may be hazards themselves.
Ergonomic hazards affect pharmacists. A retail store worker may need to stand for a long shift and the pharmacist may need to work long hours. The pharmacist performs repetitive motions such as filling pill bottles, opening and closing the register, and filling out many documents. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, specific tools that automate tasks such as pill dispensing can reduce repetitive strain injuries.
Eric Novinson has written articles on Daily Kos, his own blog and various other websites since 2006. He holds a Bachelor of Science in business administration from Humboldt State University.