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Health and safety

NPA Essential

Health and safety

Whatever the risks, you are legally required to do your best to manage them and keep staff and customers informed.

Michael Jackson, Senior Health and Safety Consultant at Ellis Whittam, shares his recent experiences

Most pharmacies allocate more space to retail and customer areas than staff. While this makes business sense, it often leads to congested work areas and limited storage space. This, in turn, can increase the likelihood of trips (the biggest cause of major injury in the workplace) and awkward or unsafe lifting practices.

The easy solution is down to good housekeeping. Walkways need to be clearly designated, and not become obstructed. Staff should take responsibility for their own work areas.

Also, I’d recommend you look at opportunities to increase shelf space, but be sure to check fixtures and fittings. I know of one pharmacy where a retail shelf collapsed onto a customer.

Customers may bring in coughs and infectious diseases, and it astonishes me how little attention some pharmacies pay to disinfection. At one, I found dried blood on the work surface next to the needle exchange bin – both a serious health risk and a contravention of Principle 3 of the GPhC standards, which requires good infection control procedures and a suitable cleaning programme and equipment.

Worse, it could be considered a breach of The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002, which can carry a maximum fine of £20,000, not to mention serious damage to your reputation.

All skin contact surfaces such as door handles and chairs must be disinfected at least once a day, and this should be recorded. Visit the NPA’s Webshop for a range of cleaning equipment.
When it comes to fire safety, a fire alarm may not be required in a small pharmacy as long as everyone in the building can hear you shout ‘FIRE!’.

Avoid injuries caused by wet floors by installing a weather mat inside and outside the entrance to soak up moisture. But remember, weather mats may curl up at the edges and cause a trip hazard. Umbrella stands are a good idea and signage to identify wet floor surfaces are sensible. Have a mop and bucket handy to keep on top of the problem. This won’t eliminate slop risks but you will have done what is ‘reasonably practicable’ to prevent them.

Monitor the condition of your floor surfaces. I have visited pharmacies where there were gaps in laminated wood flooring which can cause injury.

If residents live above, I’d recommend an automatic fire alarm linked to upstairs residential properties (so out- of-hours fires are not a risk). Your pharmacy needs a safe means of exit, but sometimes I find blocked or even locked fire escapes.

In the event of a power failure in a fire, it may not be necessary to install emergency lighting, providing everyone can see to escape using ‘borrowed’ light from a good street light or other outside source. Insufficient light at key points, including stairs, corridors and the rear of the premises, will require emergency lighting. You might consider LED emergency lighting or photoluminescent emergency signs.

This is a small selection of the health and safety issues. It is always advisable to have professional, competent assistance providing hands-on, practical help in addressing these and other issues. Whatever the risks, you are legally required to do your best to manage them and keep staff and customers informed. Failure to do so can have severe consequences for everyone involved.

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