NIOSH Investigates Exposures at a Mail Order Pharmacy

Published January 22, 2014

​NIOSH evaluated pharmaceutical dust exposures, hazardous drug exposures, and job stress at a mail order pharmacy as part of the agency's Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Program. NIOSH investigators visited the pharmacy in August 2012 in response to a request from contractor employees who were concerned about pharmaceutical exposures as well as communication and other workplace issues. The agency's report concludes that the health and safety climate at the pharmacy needs improvement, citing findings that some employees were exposed to active pharmaceutical ingredients, including pharmaceutical dust. NIOSH found that contractor employees reported more work-related eye, skin, and respiratory irritation than company employees. Further, contractors felt uncomfortable taking time off when sick.

Based on their findings, NIOSH staff provided several recommendations to reduce exposures and improve the health and safety climate of the workplace, including:

  • require employees to wear nitrile gloves when dermal exposure to pharmaceutical dust is possible
  • substitute uncoated tablets with coated tablets when possible to further reduce dust
  • use LEV hoods that are ducted outdoors for tasks that could create pharmaceutical dust
  • discontinue the system that penalizes contractors for taking time off when ill, as the system could have negative effects on productivity and morale
  • create a formal procedure for employees to report and receive feedback on health and safety concerns

For more information, view the HHE report, which was released last week. Other NIOSH HHE reports are available on the agency’s website.