Job in a pool store: good idea or bad?
March 12, 2018 6:40 PM   Subscribe

I've received a job offer to work in a pool store. However, Mr. Hubris is very against my taking this job. His argument is that breathing in chlorine fumes day in and day out is a dangerous risk, akin to working in a bar constantly full of second-hand smoke. My question: has anyone here worked in a pool store, and, if so, did the exposure to the pool-related chemicals cause issues? If nobody here has, could you at least tell me whether you would take this job?

Job duties, among others, will include filling chlorine tanks, selling customers packaged chemicals, stocking, and customer service. I have a history of fairly severe, though not life-threatening, respiratory allergies, primarily against dust, animal dander and grasses. I do not react badly to chemicals, but I suppose that could change. Poking around online just seems to confirm what Mr. Hubris is saying - that long-term exposure to unadulterated chlorine is really unhealthy and not worth what they will be paying me, as it's not a wolf-at-the-door kind of situation. I do, however, need a job, and fairly soon. It's not a choice of not working.

Thanks for your input.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris to Work & Money (9 answers total)
I did work at a pool store as an admin with the office right above the showroom and I quit after 6 months. The fumes just bothered me to no end with end of day headaches.
posted by tipsyBumblebee at 6:48 PM on March 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

Here is a very good book that can help you assess the risk.

I would suggest that you accept the job and work there while you continue to search for a different job. If you like the job, understand the risk versus the emotions and fear, and then make a decision on whether to stay or not.
posted by AugustWest at 8:32 PM on March 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't take it. You only get one body, and when you break it, fixing it is costly.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:04 PM on March 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

Pool chemistry has changed somewhat in my neck of the woods. Have you had a walk-through? Most of the pools have less overall chlorine, and you want to have a good understanding of their storage system - are the chemicals stored in your work area? Retrieved from storage? Ordered from a warehouse? That can make a big difference.
posted by childofTethys at 9:05 PM on March 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

Hmmm my local pool store doesn't smell like chlorine at all. They sell big 30L containers of chlorine, but they are never open in the store itself.
posted by trialex at 9:09 PM on March 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

What does the employers say when you ask? I think it’s a perfectly reasonable question. “I’m excited about this opportunity! However I was recently shown some research on the risks of chlorine exposure, so I wasnted to get your thoughts on the types of safety precautions you have in place to limit exposure. Can you tell me more about how you mitigate safety concerns?”

The worst that happens is they say they’re totally safe but you disagree once you start, and you quit. The best that happens is they reassure you.
posted by samthemander at 9:12 PM on March 12, 2018 [6 favorites]

Even if someone here worked at a pool store and felt great, that doesn't mean it's safe for you. And likewise, someone here may have been poisoned while working in a pool store, but that might not be a risk for you.

The effect of chlorine depends on level of exposure. In this Chlorine Handbook (from a random website, just an example, I have no idea of its accuracy) you'll see Table 3. Chlorine Exposure Levels and Effects on Humans.

The key measure is parts per million (PPM), ranging from an odor threshold, to an OHSA ceiling, to "immediately dangerous to life and health" and worse.

Can you ask the potential employer about how they handle safety there? Ideally they have a well developed safety program, with training required before handling chemicals, and designated procedures for when something goes wrong. Or of none of that is required, they should have a knowledgeable explanation for why.
posted by reeddavid at 11:05 PM on March 12, 2018

I worked in a pool store in college. To my memory the only chlorine we had onsite was powder and tablets. Even then (mid-1990s) there were stringent processes in place for when someone inevitably knocked over a tub of chlorine powder, for example: masks, evacuation, etc.

But- the place never smelled like chlorine (or anything else other than the one manager’s coffee), because we only sold sealed containers. It sounds like your place might be different. I agree with the above though that askin about exposure and risks can’t hurt.
posted by okayokayigive at 3:50 AM on March 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think this is going to vary a lot based on the practices in place at this particular store, and also your personal sensitivity. I can see some stores being pretty careful about chemical exposure, and others being totally reckless. Also it's worth noting that even if you're not particularly sensitive on a day-to-day basis, the long-term health effects of working in a place like this could still be significant. Occupational exposure to toxic chemicals is not good for your lifespan.

So if you're otherwise inclined to accept this job, I think it would be good to do as others have said and inquire with the owners as to their safety practices, and then if you get an answer you're OK with take the job with the private understanding that you're going to leave quickly if you decide you aren't comfortable working there. It could be totally fine, or it could not be. Your husband's concerns sound valid but not worth avoiding the job over on their own. Ask some questions, then try it and see, and leave with no shame if you're not OK with it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:40 AM on March 13, 2018

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