How do I tell my boss I don’t want to be the pesticide applicator?

I’m a 31-year-old female and I work in the horticulture industry. I take care of plants for researchers in a greenhouse at a start-up biotech company. I recently had my quarterly review and my boss wants me to take over the application of pesticides in our greenhouses. We do this because we get outbreaks of pests that compromise the health of our plants. Right now, we have an external person do the pesticide applications. My problem is I don’t want this responsibility. Right now, I am up to my neck working 12-hour days to get all the plantings and plant care done. I also am getting married soon and want to start a family. Anyone who has worked with pesticides knows that if you a female who wants kids you shouldn’t be around pesticides.

My last job was at a botanic garden where I did assist with pesticide applications. At that job I always wore over the top PPE, think chem-resistant coveralls, gloves, and a full-face respirator, and I still felt the level of exposure was too high, this is the main reason I left that job. I would be fine with setting up a pesticide program, but I would not like to handle or apply the pesticides myself. How do I tell my boss I don’t want this responsibility? I also don’t want to tell my boss I am worried about compromising my reproductive health. Our maternity plan isn’t that good, and I expect that if I mention having kids soon, I might start getting bad reviews so it will be easy to fire me.

2 Answers

  • Anonymous
    2 months ago

    You open your mouth and the words come out.

    Make sure you know what you're talking about.    Are your accusations about the specific pesticides they are using based on fact?

    "Anyone who has worked with pesticides knows that if you a female who wants kids you shouldn’t be around pesticides."   No, that's really not true.   Many, many people work around pesticides and even use them in their own homes.   That includes anyone who works in the veterinary field and most people who have pets.

    Many, many pesticides are quite safe.  In fact they're safe enough to put on an eight week old kitten.   The pest control company that services my rural home where pests are a big problem uses pretty much nothing but Fipronil.    For you pet owners out there, that's Frontline - the stuff safe enough to put right on your puppy.   And my pest control company uses it on a concentration that's far, far less than what is in a dose of pet Frontline to take care of everything from carpenter ants to spiders to aphids to wasps to flies....

    So yeah...if you don't want to do this part of your job, there's nothing else for you to do but say so.   But make sure you have your facts first and that indeed there would be a health/safety risk to you to do what they are asking you to.

    If you come off as a paranoid person who doesn't understand basic science and is going to play the pregnancy card, they'll likely replace you before you can become a headache for them.

  • 2 months ago

    It seems like this is a regular part of your career path.

    if you have a good relationship with your supervisor, you tell her/him what you told us - that you aren't looking for this type of responsibility and you accepted this job because it wasn't included.

    -- an employer doesn't need to know about your reproductive health.

    "I still felt the level of exposure was too high"

    - I don't see you had any exposure, so your assessment may not be realistic to most people. 

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