Recently in my college courses we have been studying the "harmful risks" with pesticides. What worries me is the problems it can cause with us at anytime in our lives and the possibilities of un born children developing problems. I am just looking for some advice from anybody who has some knowledge and or experience in working with chemicals. I personally have very little other than herbicides. Also I am interested in knowing more about what it is like to be a commercial applicator. The co-op looking at us students for interns will basically tell us what we want to hear but I want to know what exactly life is like working for a co-op and if it is a good idea to become a commercial applicator or anyother worker at a co-op.
My dad was a pesticide applicator long before my brother sister and I were born, we had no defects. As long as you wear the proper PPEs you should be fine. As far as the work it depends on who you work for, my dad regrets not starting his own commercial application business, he's worked up to 80 hour work weeks in the spring and summer but it's now down around 60. The pay isn't great at most co-ops unless you're a salesman or branch manager which my dad also was at one time.
I was a part time custom applicator for about four years. I did it as a way to work into the family farm, get some experience and look for opportunities to rent more land. I worked for the local co-op for about two months in the spring. I enjoyed it and if I couldn't farm would seriously look at doing it again. It was quite a few hours but that was one of the things I liked about it. I had a lot of weeks where I earned more overtime hours than regular hours. Nice big checks, but made it hard to go back to the farm wages. As far as "Harmful risks" I don't think there is much to worry about. Most of the chemicals used are less toxic than table salt. I agree with what Aaron said use PPE and follow the label and you will be fine.
I have been an applicator at the local co-op for 4 years. I agree with the other posters in that as long as you are wearing the proper PPE the risk is mimimal. It does seem that there are a lot of rules and regulations but they are there to protect us even though they may annoy us, especially during the busy season. Our location is one that does not deal with NH3 and I am happy about that, to me it's more dangerous than the Restricted Used Pesticides. As an applicator you are ultimately responsible for what is getting sprayed on a field and what is getting mixed in your tank. I take pride in what I do so I may take a little longer in getting a job done, but it will get done right and the paperwork will too.