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Environmental Demands

Cleanliness & Odors

Workplaces can range from very clean, sterile environments to dirty and messy environments.

In certain jobs, you should expect that you might get sweaty, messy, wet, and/or dirty.  Specifically, you might get your work clothes /uniform, shoes, and hands wet or dirty on a regular basis.   When you consider these jobs, you should ask yourself, "Can I handle getting messy?"

Here are some examples of typically "messy" jobs:
  • Waiter / waitress (wet hands, dirty apron)
  • Bus boy (wet hands, wet shoes, dirty apron)
  • Cook (messy and wet hands, clothes, shoes)
  • Custodian (dirty hands, clothing)
  • Plant nursery worker (dirty hands, shoes)
  • Farm worker (dirty clothes, hands, shoes)
  • Plumber (wet hands, dirty clothes)
  • Mechanic (dirty hands, clothes)
  • Sanitation worker (dirty hands, clothes)
  • Construction worker (dirty hands, clothes, shoes)
  • House painter (paint on hands, clothes, shoes)
  • Veterinary Technician (you are working with animals!)

How can you cope with these "messy" jobs?  Here are some ideas:

  • Wear gloves.
  • Wear a hat.
  • Wash your hands regularly.
  • Use hand sanitizer.
  • Have a towel or wet wipes handy.
  • Change aprons, scrubs, or shirts if needed.
  • Wash your clothes and take a shower when you get home!

In many other work environments, it is not likely that you would get messy, wet, or dirty.  Keep in mind that no work environment is 100% clean all of the time.

Here are some examples of typically "non-messy" jobs:
  • Bank Teller (but you need to be okay with touching other people’s money)
  • Budget Analyst
  • Cashier (but you need to be okay with touching other people’s money)
  • Bus driver
  • Computer Programmer
  • Computer Support Specialist
  • Data Entry Operator
  • Editor
  • Filing Clerk
  • Librarian
  • Office Clerk
  • Professor
  • Research Assistant
  • Video Game Designer
  • Web Developer

Certain jobs require a sterile and clean environment because of certain safety, food service, or healthcare regulations.  Jobs such as medical technician, pharmacy technician, vet technician, and home health care worker all require that you maintain a sterile environment. 

What’s that smell? 

Sometimes, work environments may smell a certain way.  For example, a restaurant will probably smell like food.  Some retail stores (ones that sell beauty products) may smell like fragrances.  A person who works as a painter must be around the smell of paint while they work.  Some people are very sensitive to odor, and certain smells may bother them.  If you are sensitive to odors, you should consider what type of odor (if any) is associated with the type of job you are interested in.  For example, if you get a headache from the smell of perfume, a job in a department store may not be for you.  Or, if the smell of food bothers you, a job in the food industry may not be for you. 

Here are some jobs that are typically associated with certain odors:
  • Custodian = Cleaning supplies including bleach and ammonia
  • Cook, Waiter / Waitress, Dining Room Helper = Various foods
  • Farm Worker = Animals, fertilizers, waste
  • Home Health Care Aid = Cleaning supplies, medicinal products
  • Painter = Paints
  • Auto mechanic = Oil, gasoline
  • Medical Technician = Solutions, mixtures, cleaning supplies
  • Retail = Only if you are working near perfumes, cosmetics
  • Veterinary Technician = Animals, medicinal products, cleaning supplies

How can you cope with these "smelly" jobs?

  • Take scheduled breaks in the "fresh air" (outdoors, a different work area).
  • Wear an air mask.
  • Use Lysol or some other spray as needed.

Sometimes, your job may require you to tolerate certain environmental demands that you do not like.  No work environment is perfect all the time.  Everyone has to cope with certain job-related environmental demands.

It is important to learn coping strategies and techniques so you will keep the job you want. Go to our Coping Section for help