Pharmacists and work related injuries

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22 Nov 2016 - General

Injuries from repetitive movements

Problem: Repetitive typing and clicking of mouse at a computer work station can result in shoulder, elbow and wrist injuries. Prolonged period of reading and writing orders on workstation surfaces may cause neck pain. Awkward postures of sitting and standing can causes fatigue, tissue damage and irritation as tendons and muscles do not have time to rest. Poor work bench design causes stretch injuries when pharmacists constantly exert to extend to reach for objects on bench top

Solution: To prevent fatigue from repetitive motion such as twisting and turning of caps, clicking and typing at work station, suggest for a job rotation in a day. Create computer short cuts on desktops to reduce to number of clicks to complete a task. The work station can be made in an ergonomically friendly design to prevent injuries caused by awkward position. For delicate tasks such as pushing solutions through syringes in a compounding lab, alternate hands if possible and pace yourself to allow time for recoil or simply invest in a pump instead. 


Prolonged standing

Problem: Pharmacists stand to work. They stand and walk during ward rounds and inspections of plant during medication inspection as well as in a community pharmacy to serve customers. Prolonged standing in the same posture leads to haemorrhoids, varicose veins and sometimes hypotension due to blood stasis and poor return of blood to the heart.

Solution: Anti-fatigue mats can be employed at the retail pharmacy and fixed work stations to provide a softer surface to stand. Wear comfortable, closed-toed shoes with good feet support. Sit-stand stools can be provided to alternate between sitting standing position. Always stretch after prolonged standing/sitting. 


Lifting heavy load

Problem: Lifting heavy objects including intravenous solutions, enteral milk feeds, rehabilitative merchandise (e.g. wheel chairs, walking sticks and clutches) can cause slipped disc, muscle aches, haemorrhoids and backaches. 

Solution: Determine the weight to be lifted before attempting to carry weight. Test the load and ask for help if it is too heavy. It is also wise to separate one heavy load into smaller loads over multiple trips. It is important to bear in mind that even lifting a light load for an extended time can also cause injury due to acute forceful exertion. Employ help from machines and equipment to help lift and shift heavy objects. When using a cart or trolley, push instead of pull. 


Slipping and falling

Problem: Wet floors are not a common sight in the pharmacy as the premise should be food-free and liquid spillage should be dealt with immediately. However, with wear and tear of the tiles, flooring can get slippery. Clear Ziploc bags fallen to the floor can be invisible at times and stepping on them accidentally can prove to be fatal. Slipping on wet floor can cause twisted ankle, hip fracture and head injury.

Solution: Wear safety boots in premises where pharmacists have to deal with liquid preparations, e.g. at the sink area, in compounding laboratories. Install and maintain non-slip tiles.


Poor eye-sight

Problem: Pharmacists typically face a computer screen for more than four hours in a full day shift. Poor lighting at the work station causes eye strain. Over working the eyes can worsen astigmatism and myopia. Inappropriate lighting (too dark or too bright) can induce headache and migraine attacks. 

Solution: Employ appropriate lighting at work stations. Avoid working under conditions with flickering lights or damaged lamps, inform the relevant department to get it fixed. Rest and relax the eyes by looking away far frequently. Conduct frequent eye check-ups. Many employers provide free claims for making of lenses.



Great tips for maintaining a good posture and work ergonomics for the field of pharmacy. To add to some of these tips: For prolonged standing, one may opt to place one foot over a foot stool to relieve the lumbar spine off some pressure. For avoidance of repetitive injuries, a good practice is to stretch the most used body parts every hour. For those who work in a computer for prolonged hours, use the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, focus on an object 20 feet away from you for 20 seconds. This ...
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Thank you very much for this post. This is most beneficial to pharmacists in our community and I'm sure if they read this, they will have their share of stories in relation to moving about, lifting loads and slipping whilst performing their duties as pharmacists. But like any other healthcare professionals, our jobs pose risks everyday so we just have to make sure in our own little ways that our working environment is safe, well lighted and free of any clutter to minimise any work related in...
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