APhA coronavirus watch: OSHA takes small but notable steps toward protecting pharmacy workers

Heads up, pharmacy employers: the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued an alert listing safety tips to protect essential workers at pharmacies. Released May 14, 2020, it is OSHA’s first alert specifically recognizing pharmacy employees—but the recommendations are not binding.

In its alert, part of OSHA’s series of industry-specific recommendations, the agency lists the following tips to protect the safety of pharmacy employees:

  • Encourage workers who are sick to stay at home.
  • Install clear plastic barriers between workers and customers at order and pickup counters.
  • Use signage and floor markers to keep waiting customers at least 6 feet from the counter, other customers, and pharmacy staff.
  • Encourage drive-through or curbside pickup and home delivery, where feasible.
  • Encourage customers to submit prescriptions online or by phone. Allow customers to provide their insurance information verbally or virtually (e.g., through mobile apps or the pharmacy’s website).
  • Specify hours dedicated to vulnerable populations (e.g., older adults, people with underlying health conditions).
  • Increase the use of self-serve checkout to minimize worker interaction with customers.
  • Limit the number of customers allowed inside the facility at any point.
  • Frequently clean and disinfect checkout and customer service counters.
  • Provide a place to wash hands and alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • Allow workers to wear cloth face coverings or surgical masks over their nose and mouth to prevent them from spreading the virus.
  • Provide gloves and eye and face protection, as necessary, for workers in the pharmacy.
  • Pharmacists providing clinical services to patients, such as immunizations, might need additional protections; refer to OSHA’s guidance for health care providers and employers for more information.
  • Encourage workers to report any safety and health concerns.

Those seeking more information can visit OSHA’s website at www.osha.gov/coronavirus or call the agency at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).